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World colonization progress from 1492 to 2007

Colonization (or colonisation) occurs whenever any one or more species populate an area. The term, which is derived from the Latin colere, "to inhabit, cultivate, frequent practice, tend, guard, respect",[1] originally referred to humans. During the 19th century, biogeographers appropriated the term to also describe the activities of birds, bacteria, or plant species. Human colonization is a narrower category than the related concept of colonialism. Colonization refers strictly to migration, for example, to settler colonies, trading posts, and plantations, while colonialism deals with this, along with ruling the existing indigenous peoples of styled "new territories".


  • Historical colonizations 1
    • Prehistory 1.1
    • Classical period 1.2
    • Middle Ages 1.3
    • Modern "Colonial Era" colonialism 1.4
    • Colonization of Europe 1.5
  • Modern colonization 2
  • Other ways of using the term 3
    • Policy 3.1
    • Habitat - botany and zoology 3.2
    • Cultural 3.3
  • Hypothetical or fictional types of colonization 4
    • Colonization of Antarctica 4.1
    • Ocean colonization 4.2
    • Space colonization 4.3
  • See also 5
  • Notes and references 6
  • Bibliography 7

Historical colonizations


An example of colonization includes the migration of Austronesian peoples across the islands and land in the Pacific Ocean. Another is the Bantu expansion.

Classical period

In ancient times, maritime nations such as the city-states of Greece and Phoenicia often established colonies so as to farm what they saw as uninhabited land. In classical times, land suitable for farming was often claimed by migratory "barbarian tribes" who lived by hunting and gathering. To ancient Greeks and Phoenicians, the land was regarded as simply vacant. However this does not mean that conflict did not exist between the colonizers and native peoples. Greeks and Phoenicians also established colonies with the intent of regulating and expanding trade throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Another period of colonization in Ancient times was from the Romans. The Roman Empire conquered a large part of Western Europe, North Africa and West Asia. In North Africa and west Asia they were often conquering what they regarded as "civilized" peoples, but as they moved north into Europe they mostly encountered rural tribes with very little in the way of cities. In these areas, waves of Roman colonization often followed the conquest of the areas.

Many of the current cities around Europe began as Roman colonies, such as the German city Köln (Cologne), which was originally called Colonia Claudia by the Romans; and the British capital city of London which the Romans founded as Londinium.

Middle Ages

World empires and colonies 1550
World empires and colonies 1800

The decline and collapse of the Roman Empire saw (and was partly caused by) the large-scale movement of people in Eastern Europe and Asia. This is largely seen as beginning with nomadic horsemen from Asia (specifically the Huns) moving into the richer pasture land to the west and so forcing the people there to move further west and so on until eventually the Goths were forced to cross into the Roman Empire, resulting in continuous war with Rome which played a major role in the fall of the Roman Empire. It was this period that saw the large-scale movement of peoples establishing new colonies all over western Europe, the events of this time saw the development of many of the modern day nations of Europe, the Franks in France and Germany and the Anglo-Saxons in England.

In West Asia, during Sassanid Empire, some Persians established colonies in Yemen and Oman.

The Vikings of Scandinavia also carried out a large-scale colonization. The Vikings are best known as raiders, setting out from their original homelands in Denmark, southern Norway and southern Sweden, to pillage the coastlines of northern Europe. In time, the Vikings began trading, rather than raiding, and established colonies. The Vikings discovered Iceland and establishing colonies before moving onto Greenland, where they briefly held some colonies. The Vikings also launched an unsuccessful attempt at colonizing an area they called Vinland, which is probably at a site now known as L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, on the eastern coastline of Canada.

Modern "Colonial Era" colonialism

"Colonialism" in this context refers mostly to Western European countries' colonization of lands mainly in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania; the main European countries active in this form of colonization included Spain, Portugal, France, the Kingdom of England, the Netherlands, and (from the 18th century) Great Britain. Each of these countries had a period of almost complete power in world trade at some stage in the era from roughly 1500 to 1900. Some reports characterize Chinese activities in Tibet as colonization.[2][3]

While many colonization schemes focused on shorter-term exploitation of economic opportunities (Edward Gibbon Wakefield's New Zealand in the 1840s).[4]

Colonization of Europe

A number of scholars and analysts describe contemporary Muslim immigration to Europe as a process of colonization. Rauf Ceylan describes the Turkish communities of Germany as "ethnic colonies".[5] Robert S. Leiken describes Muslim immigrant communities in Europe as "something like a Muslim internal colony," in which the immigrant becomes "not so much a member of British society as a colonial of his clan and village".[6] Hans Magnus Enzensberger also uses the language of colonization. Christopher Caldwell writes that "'colonization' well describes the influx of the past half-century".[5] First, because of the scale of the phenomenon, and, more significantly according to Caldwell, because the "terms" of the transformation are "set by the immigrants".[5]

Modern colonization

World empires and colonies 1898
World empires and colonies 1914
World empires and colonies 1920
World empires and colonies 1936
World empires and colonies 1945
World empires and colonies 1959
World empires and colonies 1974

Colonization may be used as a method of absorbing and assimilating foreign people into the culture of the imperial country, and thus destroying any remnant of the foreign cultures that might threaten the imperial territory over the long term by inspiring rebellion. During the Russian Empire, a policy of Russification was followed, in order to impose the Russian language and culture on conquered people in territory adjacent to Russia itself. In this way, the Russian Empire aimed to gradually, and permanently, expand its territory by erasing foreign cultures. Foreign languages within its territory were banned, as were foreign religions. The policy of Russification was pursued during the Communist era as well. Under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, ethnic Russians were sent to colonize captured territory such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, while local languages, religions and customs were banned or suppressed. Population transfer in the Soviet Union was also used both as a military strategy to extinguish opposition to Soviet expansion, and as a continuation of the Russification policy of assimilating, or failing that, eliminating ethnic minorities through exile to a distant territory such as Siberia.

In some cases, expatriate niches do set up permanently in target countries but whether this can be rightly called colonization is debatable precisely because of the ambiguity of intentions behind the movement and settling of expatriates and in many cases (especially when not gathered into a niche per se) expatriates do not necessarily seek to "expand their native civilization", but rather to integrate into the population of the new civilization. It must be recognized that expatriates are different from exiles and often there is very little if no relationship between them. Exiles are more often than not diasporic or displaced communities or persons who have fled their native territory or homeland to somewhere else and are usually in this position due to the ramifications of war or other major political upheavals and sometimes this includes the influence of colonization.

Many nations also have large numbers of guest workers who are brought in to do seasonal work such as harvesting or to do low-paid manual labor. Guest workers or contractors have a lower status than workers with visas, because guest workers can be removed at any time for any reason. Many human colonists came to colonies as slaves, so the legal power to leave or remain may not be the issue so much as the actual presence of the people in the new country.

Other ways of using the term


The theory of Science policy colonization argues that science policy is increasingly being dominated by scientific experts from developed, industrialized democracies. Scientists from poorer, emerging or developing democracies may mainly be given the role of collecting raw data. Experts from developed, industrialized democracies may have biases unchallenged that run counter to the best interests of emerging democracies such as South Africa. There are also concerns (UNESCO 1999) that the accountability mechanisms imposed on knowledge experts are inadequate.

Habitat - botany and zoology

In botanical and zoological ecoregions and habitats, invasive species can colonize, become the dominant or monotypic species, replacing indigenous or native ones due to lack of natural controls. Conservation biology uses this definition.


The term Cocacolonization is used to describe cases where a country's indigenous culture is eroded by a corporate mass-culture, usually from a powerful, industrialized country such as the United States (see cultural imperialism). This is more metaphorical usage as people need not move to the colonized country; only cultural signals, symbols, forms of entertainment, and values need to move to the colonized country.

Hypothetical or fictional types of colonization

Colonization of Antarctica

Ocean colonization

The hypothetical permanent habitation of locations in Earth's oceans is called ocean colonization. Related ideas such as the floating city are much less hypothetical - funds are presently being sought to build several large ships that would have permanent populations of up to 50,000 people each.

Space colonization

In science fiction, space colonization is sometimes more benign. Humans find an uninhabited planet, and inhabit it. The colonization of Mars is an often-used example of this type of space colonization. In more recent science fiction, humans may create habitable space (by terraforming or constructing a space habitat) and call that a "colony".

On the other hand, if the planet is already inhabited, much less benign consequences ensue: indeed, some science fiction authors have used the colonization of alien planets by humans, or the colonization of Earth by aliens, to explore the real-world issues surrounding the phenomenon. Such works include those of Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow and Children of God.

The ultimate form of space colonization is the Kardashev scale which assumes that a single dominant civilisation will take over all energy on one planet, then one star, then a whole galaxy full of stars. However, this would not necessarily be so if other species were to be discovered during a galactic expansion. This may require more than one species to share the galactic space with each other as they both develop.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Marcy Rockman, James Steele (2003). The Colonization of Unfamiliar Landscapes. Routledge.  
  2. ^ The Great Tibetan Stonewall of China, ISBN 1902681118, page 141
  3. ^ China's Tibet: The World's Largest Remaining Colony: Report of a Fact-Finding Mission and Analyses of Colonialism and Chinese Rule in Tibet. The Hague:  
  4. ^  
  5. ^ a b c , May 4, 2012.The New RepublicChristopher Caldwell, "Europe’s Other Crisis",
  6. ^ Leiken, Robert S. Europe’s Angry Muslims: The Revolt of the Second Generation, Oxford University Press, 2012.


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