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The pith helmet, an icon of colonialism in tropical lands. This one was used during the Second French colonial empire.

Colonialism is the policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. The colonising country seeks to benefit from the colonised country or land mass. In the process, colonisers imposed their religion, economics, and medicinal practices on the natives. Colonialism is the relationship of domination of indigenous by foreign invaders where the latter rule in pursuit of its interests.

Starting in the 15th century some European states established their own empires during the European colonial period. The Belgian, British, Danish, Dutch, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish empires established colonies across large areas. Imperial Japan, the Ottoman Empire and the United States also acquired colonies, as did imperialist China and finally in the late 19th century the German and the Italian.

At first, European colonising countries followed policies of mercantilism, in order to strengthen the home economy, so agreements usually restricted the colonies to trading only with the metropole (mother country). By the mid-19th century, however, the British Empire gave up mercantilism and trade restrictions and adopted the principle of free trade, with few restrictions or tariffs. Christian missionaries were active in practically all of the colonies because the colonialists were Christians. Historian Philip Hoffman calculated that by 1800, before the Industrial Revolution, Europeans already controlled at least 35% of the globe, and by 1914, they had gained control of 84% of the globe.

Selected article

Copy of the Treaty of Butre (1656) between the Netherlands and Ahanta (Gold Coast).

The Treaty of Butre between the Netherlands and Ahanta was signed at Butre (historical spelling: Boutry), Dutch Gold Coast on 27 August 1656. The treaty regulated the jurisdiction of the Netherlands and the Dutch West India Company over the town of Butre and the surrounding country of Upper Ahanta, creating a Dutch protectorate over the area. Being a dedication, the treaty is rather unilateral in its terms. Ahanta declared that in view of former good relations with the Dutch government established in the past at neighbouring Axim, and in view of the adverse circumstances caused by the war with Encasser, it was decided to invite the Dutch director general at Elmina to come to Butre and "accept possession of that what was offered him". Ahanta placed itself under the protection of both the States General of the United Netherlands and the Dutch West India Company. This was done on the condition that the Dutch fortified and defended the places under their protection, and kept the Ahanta free from the dangers of war.

When the Dutch transferred their possessions on the Gold Coast to the British on 6 April 1872, the treaty of 1656 was still in effect, having regulated political relations between the Dutch and Ahanta for more than 213 years. The treaty was one of the oldest and one of the longest functioning treaties between an African and a European state. After the transfer the British started to develop their own policies towards the now united Gold Coast possessions. Ahanta resisted the British take-over, with the result that the British Royal Navy bombed Butre in 1873 to achieve a political submission. In 1874 Britain declared the entire Gold Coast – including Ahanta – a Crown Colony, de jure and de facto ending all former diplomatic and legal obligations.


Selected biography

Coronation portrait

Edward VII (9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death on 6 May 1910. He was the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was renamed the House of Windsor by his son, George V.

Before his accession to the throne, Edward held the title of Prince of Wales and was heir apparent to the throne for longer than anyone else in history. During the long widowhood of his mother, Queen Victoria, he was largely excluded from political power and came to personify the fashionable, leisured elite.

The Edwardian era, which covered Edward's reign and was named after him, coincided with the start of a new century and heralded significant changes in technology and society, including powered flight and the rise of socialism and the Labour movement. He played a role in the modernisation of the British Home Fleet, the reform of the Army Medical Services, and the reorganisation of the British army after the Second Boer War.

Edward fostered good relations between Great Britain and other European countries, especially France, for which he was popularly called "Peacemaker", but his relationship with his nephew, Wilhelm II of Germany, was poor. Edward presciently suspected that Wilhelm would precipitate a war, and four years after Edward's death, World War I brought an end to the Edwardian way of life.


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Colonialism's rise and fall over the past 500 years.


This map shows Colonization's rise and fall over the past 500 years.


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