A colonial empire is a collective of territories (often called colonies), either contiguous with the imperial center or located overseas, settled by the population of a certain state and governed by that state.
Before the expansion of early modern European powers, other empires had conquered and colonized territories, such as the Roman Empire in Iberia, or the Chinese in what is now South China. Modern colonial empires first emerged with a race of exploration between the then most advanced European maritime powers, Portugal and Spain, during the 15th century. The initial impulse behind these dispersed maritime empires and those that followed was trade, driven by the new ideas and the capitalism that grew out of the European Renaissance. Agreements were also made to divide the world up between them in 1479, 1493, and 1494. European imperialism was born out of competition between European Christians and Ottoman Muslims, the latter of which rose up quickly in the 14th century and forced the Spanish and Portuguese to seek new trade routes to India, and to a lesser extent, China.
Although colonies existed in classical antiquity, especially amongst the Phoenicians and the ancient Greeks who settled many islands and coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, these colonies were politically independent from the city-states they originated from, and thus did not constitute a colonial empire. This paradigm shifted by the time of the Ptolemaic Empire, the Seleucid Empire, and the Roman Empire.
European colonial empires
Portugal began establishing the first global trade network and one of the first colonial empires under the leadership of Henry the Navigator. The empire spread throughout a vast number of territories distributed across the globe (especially at one time in the 16th century) that are now parts of 60 different sovereign states. Portugal would eventually control Brazil, territories such as what is now Uruguay and some fishing ports in north, in the Americas; Angola, Mozambique, Portuguese Guinea, and São Tomé and Príncipe (among other territories and bases) in the North and the Subsaharan Africa; cities, forts or territories in all the Asian subcontinents, as Muscat, Ormus and Bahrain (amongst other bases) in the Persian Gulf; Goa, Bombay and Daman and Diu (amongst other coastal cities) in India; Portuguese Ceylon; Malacca, bases in Southeast Asia and Oceania, as Makassar, Solor, Banda, Ambon and others in the Moluccas, Portuguese Timor; and the granted entrepôt-base of Macau and the entrepôt-enclave of Dejima (Nagasaki) in East Asia, amongst other smaller or short-lived possessions.
During its Siglo de Oro, the Spanish Empire had possession of Mexico, South America, the Philippines, all of southern Italy, a stretch of territories from the Duchy of Milan to the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium, parts of Burgundy, and many colonial settlements in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Possessions in Europe, Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, the Americas, the Pacific Ocean, and East Asia qualified the Spanish Empire as attaining a global presence. From 1580 to 1640 the Portuguese Empire and the Spanish Empire were conjoined in a personal union of its Habsburg monarchs during the period of the Iberian Union, but beneath the highest level of government, their separate administrations were maintained.
Subsequent colonial empires included the French, English, Dutch and Japanese empires. By the mid-17th century, the Tsardom of Russia, continued later as the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and modern Russia, became the largest contiguous state in the world and remains so to this day.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, by virtue of its technological and maritime supremacy, the British Empire steadily expanded to become by far the largest empire in history; at its height ruling over a quarter of the Earth's land area and 24% of the population. Britain's role as a global hegemon during this time ushered in a century of "British Peace", lasting from the end of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars to the start of World War I. During the New Imperialism, Italy and Germany also built their colonial empires in Africa.
This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (January 2020)
The chart below[original research?] shows the span of some European colonial empires.
- Black lines mark the year of the empires largest territorial extent of land area.
- Red represents that the empire is at that time a monarchy.
- Blue represents that the empire is at that time a republic.
List of colonial empires
- Belgian Empire (1908–1962)
- British Empire (1707–1997/present)
- Evolution of the British Empire; Angevin Empire; English colonial empire (1585–1707)
- Possessions in Europe
- Possessions in Africa
- British Somaliland (1884–1960)
- British Egypt (1914–1936)
- Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1899–1956)
- East Africa Protectorate (1895–1920)
- Kenya Colony (1920–1963)
- Uganda Protectorate (1894–1962)
- Tanganyika (territory) (1922–1961)
- Protectorate of Nyasaland (1893–1964)
- Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia (1924–1964)
- Colony of Southern Rhodesia (1923–1965), (1979–1980)
- Bechuanaland Protectorate (1885–1966)
- British Nigeria (1914–1954)
- British Gold Coast (1867–1957)
- British Sierra Leone (1808–1961)
- British Gambia (1821–1965)
- Possessions in the Americas
- Thirteen Colonies
- British West Indies
- British Honduras (1862–1981)
- British Guiana (1814–1966)
- Kingdom of Mosquitia (1638–1860)
- Possessions in South Asia
- Possessions in East Asia
- British Hong Kong (1841–1997)
- Possessions in the Middle East
- Trucial States (1820–1971)
- British Bahrain
- British Qatar (1916–1971)
- British Iraq (1920–1932)
- Emirate of Transjordan (1921–1946)
- Mandatory Palestine (1920–1948)
- Sheikhdom of Kuwait (1899–1961)
- Aden Protectorate (1872–1963)
- Muscat and Oman (1892–1970)
- Emirate of Afghanistan (protectorate) (1879–1919)
- Possessions in Southeast Asia
- Dominions of the United Kingdom
- Dominion of Newfoundland
- States and territories of Australia (1901–present)
- Realm of New Zealand (1907–present)
- New Zealand itself a colony that gradually increased its independence in 1907, 1947 and 1986, was tasked with the government of multiple other British colonies and territories and the mandate of Samoa. It was also nominal co-trustee of the mandate of Nauru. The remaining non-self-governing New Zealand territory is Tokelau.
- Mandates under South African administration (1915–1990)
- Danish Empire (1620–1979/present)
- Dutch Empire (1602–1975/present)
- Dutch colonization of the Americas by Dutch West India Company:
- Dutch East India Company
- French Empire (1534–1980/present)
- French colonization of the Americas:
- French India (1664–1962)
- French Indochina and French Indochinese Union (1887–1954)
- The foreign concessions : French Concession of Shanghai (1849–1946), Tianjin (1860–1946) and Hankou (1898–1946)
- The spheres of French influence officially recognized by China on the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi, Hainan, and Guangdong
- Shamian Island (1859–1949) (a fifth of the island)
- French Guangzhouwan (1898–1945)
- Possessions in the Middle East
- Mandate for Syria and Lebanon (1920–1946)
- French Africa:
- French North Africa (1830–1934) and French Algeria
- French Morocco (1912–1956)
- French Tunisia (1886–1956)
- French Somaliland (1883–1967)
- French West Africa (1895–1958)
- French Madagascar (1897–1958)
- French Comoros (1866–1968)
- French Equatorial Africa (1910–1958)
- Isle de France (1715–1810)
- Seychelles (1756–1810)
- The Scattered Islands
- Reunion island (1710–present)
- Mayotte (1841–present)
- German Empire (1884–1920)
- Italian Empire (1882–1960)
- Eritrea (1882–1947)
- Somaliland (1889–1947, 1950–1960 as Italian Trust Territory of Somaliland)
- Ethiopia (1936–1941)
- Italian East Africa (formed by merging Eritrea, Somaliland and Ethiopia: 1936–1947)
- Cyrenaica (1912–1947)
- Tripolitania (1912–1947)
- Italian Islands of the Aegean (1912–1947)
- Italian Albania (1939–1943)
- Italian France (1940–1943)
- Italian Montenegro (1941–1943)
- Italian concession of Tientsin (1901–1947)
- Portuguese Empire (1415–1999)
- Evolution of the Portuguese Empire
- Portuguese colonization of the Americas
- Colonial Brazil (1500–1815)
- Portuguese India (1505–1961)
- Portuguese Ceylon (1598–1658)
- Portuguese Timor (1702–1975)
- Portuguese Macau (1557–1999)
- Portuguese Malacca (1511–1641)
- Portuguese Nagasaki (1580–1587)
- Portuguese Oman (1507–1656)
- Tamão (1514–1521)
- Portuguese Africa
- Russian Empire (1721–1917)
- Spanish Empire (1492–1825/1898-1975)
- Spanish colonization of the Americas
- Spanish East Indies (1565–1898)
- Spanish Africa
- Habsburg Spain possessions in Europe:
- Swedish Empire (1638–1663, 1733, 1784–1878)
- Japanese Empire (1868–1945)
- Ottoman Empire (1354–1908)
- Cretan State (1898–1913)
- Crimean Khanate (1475–1774)
- Ottoman Bosnia and Herzegovina (1463–1908)
- Ottoman Bulgaria (1396–1878)
- Ottoman Crete (1667–1898)
- Ottoman Greece (1453–1830)
- Ottoman Hungary (1541–1699)
- Ottoman Serbia (1371–1817)
- Rumelia Eyalet (1365–1867)
- Sanjak of Rhodes (1522–1912)
- United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia (1859–1862)
Other countries with informal colonial possessions:
- United States (1816–present)
- United States overseas territorial acquisitions
- American Samoa (1899–Present)
- Guam (1898–Present)
- Northern Mariana Islands (1986–Present)
- Puerto Rico (1898–Present)
- United States Virgin Islands (1917–Present)
- Commonwealth of the Philippines (1935–1946)
- Insular Government of the Philippine Islands (1902–1935)
- Panama Canal Zone (1903–1979)
- Republic of Hawaii (1898–1900)
- Minor Outlying Islands (1857–Present)
- Guano Islands Act Claims (1856–Present)
- Canton and Enderbury Islands (1939–1979)
- Ryukyu Islands (1950–1972)
- Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (1947–1994)
- American Colonization Society (1816–1847)
- American Concessions
- United States overseas territorial acquisitions
- Habsburg monarchy Colonies and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1719–1750, 1778–1783, 1901–1917)
- Austrian colonial policy
- Franz Josef Land
- Austro-Hungarian concession of Tianjin (1901–1917)
- Hungarian colonial attempts
- Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1637–1795) and Poland colonial initiatives
- German colonial initiatives (1683–1721)
- Italy and the colonization of the Americas
- Sweden-Norway (1814–1905)
- Cooper Island (1844–1905)
- Kingdom of Scotland (1621–1707)
- Kingdom of Morocco (1086–1228; 1975–present)
- Omani Empire (1652–1892)
- Chinese Empire (from Qin dynasty to Qing dynasty), (221 BC – 1911)
- Imperial Chinese Tributary System
- Hainan (since the Han dynasty)
- Manchuria (during the Tang, Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties)
- Canghai Commandery(A commandery that self subjugated to Han dynasty from Dongye)
- Four Commanderies of Han (Established after the fall of Gojoseon)
- Daifang Commandery (Offshoot of the former four commanderies of Han that existed in the 3rd to 4th century)
- Colonization attempts of the Tang dynasty after Unification of the three kingdoms of Korea (Gyerim Territory Area Command, Protectorate General to Pacify the East and Ungjin Commandery)
- Dongnyeong Prefectures, Ssangseong Prefectures and Tamna prefectures (Yuan dynasty)
- Inner Mongolia
- Outer Mongolia (during for example the Tang and Qing dynasties)
- Taiwan (during the Qing dynasty)
- Tibet (during the Yuan and Qing dynasties)
- Vietnam (from the Han to Tang dynasties, and during the early Ming dynasty)
- Central Asia (during the Tang and Qing dynasties)
- Ethiopian colonies as the Aksum Empire
- Viceroyalty of Yemen (520–578)
- Persian Empires
- Aghlabids colonies as Arab vassals of Abbasid Caliphate in Ifriqiya
- Chola empire
- Sikh Empire (1799–1849)
Directly controlled territory of the United States at its greatest extent (1898–1902)
Austro-Hungarian colonies and concessions throughout history
Couronian settlements in Africa
Couronian settlements in Americas (New Courland on Tobago)
Map of the Hospitaller Order's territories in the Caribbean
The Crown of Aragon
Map of Morocco and Western Sahara with the Southern Provinces in a darker color.
Chinese sphere of influence during Tang dynasty
Aksum Empire and its possessions in Yemen
Timeline of the Persian Empires and its overseas possessions in Yemen, Oman or Bahrein.
Aghlabids and its Arab colonies
- Analysis of Western European colonialism and colonization
- Colonial troops
- Great Divergence
- History of Western civilization
- List of ancient great powers
- List of largest empires
- List of medieval great powers
- List of modern great powers
- Middle Eastern empires
- Nomadic empire
- The empire on which the sun never sets
Notes and references
- Encarta-encyclopedie Winkler Prins (1993–2002) s.v. "kolonie [geschiedenis]. §1.2 De moderne koloniale expansie". Microsoft Corporation/Het Spectrum.
- Encarta, s.v. "kolonie [geschiedenis]. §1.1 Oudheid.
- William D. Phillips, Jr; Phillips, Carla Rahn (November 12, 2015). Spain as the first global empire. pp. 176–272. doi:10.1017/CBO9781316271940.006. ISBN 9781107109711. Archived from the original on August 10, 2021. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
- Powell, Philip Wayne ([1991?]). Árbol de odio: la leyenda negra y sus consecuencias en las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y el mundo hispánico. Ediciones Iris de Paz. ISBN 9788440488855. OCLC 55157841
- part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain before 1821.
- Part of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata before 1810.
- During the reign of Philip V of Borbon, an intense diplomatic and military activity was developed with which the recovery of a significant Spanish presence in Italy was achieved. He placed several of his sons as independent sovereigns in different territories, such as the Duchy of Parma and especially the Kingdom of Naples, where the spanish House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and House of Bourbon-Parma ruled until 1860.
- Gregory Smits (1999). Visions of Ryukyu: Early-Modern Thought and Politics. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 143–149·
- Maryland State Colonization Society
- Part of the Holy Roman Empire realm before 1804.
- "Ahol majdnem magyar gyarmatok lettek". 3 November 2014. Archived from the original on 28 May 2022. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
- "The Hungarian who wanted to colonise Somalia probably with the help of Budapest". 28 June 2019. Archived from the original on 6 December 2022. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
- part of the Holy Roman Empire before 1736
- The dependencies of Norway are uninhabited, thus as end date is taken the latest date of full Norwegian sovereignty extension to such territory, instead of the date of decolonization or integration in the administrative structures of the mainland.
Bouvet Island claimed in 1927, under Norway sovereignty since 1930.
Peter I Island claimed in 1929, under Norway sovereignty since 1933.
Queen Maud Land claimed in 1938, under Norway sovereignty since 1957.
Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land fall under the scope of the Antarctic Treaty System since 1961.