Portal:Colonialism

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Introduction

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 polity seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of developing or exploiting them to the benefit of the colonizing country and of helping the colonies modernize in terms defined by the colonizers, especially in economics, religion, and health.

The European colonial period was the era from the 15th century to 1914 when European states established empires. The Spanish Empire, Portuguese Empire, British Empire, Swedish Empire, French colonial empire, Russian Empire, Dutch Empire, Belgian Congo, Danish colonial empire, German Empire, and Italian Empire established colonies across large areas. The Ottoman Empire, Imperial Japan and the United States also acquired colonies, as did Chinese Imperialism.

At first, European colonizing countries followed policies of mercantilism, in order to strengthen the home economy at the expense of rivals, so regulations usually restricted the colonies to trading only with the metropole (mother country). By the mid-19th century, however, the powerful 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. 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%. The archetypal European colonial system practically ended between 1945–1975, when nearly all Europe's colonies gained political independence.

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Ruins of St. John the Baptist Church in Andheri, built by the Portuguese Jesuits in 1579

Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is the financial capital of India and one of the most populous cities in the world. At the time of arrival of the Portuguese, Bombay was an archipelago of seven islands. Growing apprehensive of the power of the Mughal emperor Humayun, Sultan Bahadur Shah of the Gujarat Sultanate was obliged to sign the Treaty of Bassein with the Portuguese Empire on 23 December 1534. According to the treaty, the seven islands of Bombay, the nearby strategic town of Bassein and its dependencies were offered to the Portuguese. The territories were later surrendered on 25 October 1535. The Portuguese were actively involved in the foundation and growth of their Roman Catholic religious orders in Bombay. They called the islands by various names, which finally took the written form Bombaim. The islands were leased to several Portuguese officers during their regime. The Portuguese Franciscans and Jesuits built several churches in the city, prominent being the St. Michael's Church at Mahim, St. John the Baptist Church at Andheri, St. Andrew's Church at Bandra, and Gloria Church at Byculla. The Portuguese also built several fortifications around the city like the Bombay Castle, Castella de Aguada (Bandra Fort), and Madh Fort. The British were in constant struggle with the Portuguese vying for hegemony over Bombay, as they recognized its strategic natural harbour and its natural isolation from land-attacks. By the middle of the 17th century the growing power of the Dutch Empire forced the British to acquire a station in western India. On 11 May 1661, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, placed Bombay in possession of the British Empire, as part of dowry of Catherine to Charles.

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Punch Rhodes Colossus.png
Credit: Edward Linley Sambourne

The Rhodes Colossus, an iconic editorial cartoon of the Scramble for Africa period, depicting British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes as a giant standing over the continent.

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All Saints Church

Selected biography

Pedro Álvares Cabra

Pedro Álvares Cabral (c. 1467 or 1468 – c. 1520) was a Portuguese noble, military commander, navigator and explorer. Cabral conducted the first substantial exploration of the northeast coast of South America and claimed it for Portugal. While details of Cabral's early life are sketchy, it is known that he came from a minor noble family and received a fine education. He was appointed to head an expedition to India in 1500, following Vasco da Gama's newly opened route around Africa. The object of the undertaking was to return with valuable spices and to establish trade relations in India—bypassing the monopoly on the spice trade then in the hands of Arab, Turkish and Italian merchants. His fleet of 13 ships sailed far into the western Atlantic Ocean, perhaps intentionally, where he made landfall on what he initially assumed to be a large island. As the new land was within the Portuguese sphere according to the Treaty of Tordesillas, Cabral claimed it for the Portuguese Crown. He explored the coast, realizing that the large land mass was likely a continent, and dispatched a ship to notify King Manuel I of the new territory. The continent was South America, and the land he had claimed for Portugal later came to be known as Brazil. The fleet reprovisioned and then turned eastward to resume the journey to India. Cabral was later passed over, possibly as a result of a quarrel with Manuel I, when a new fleet was assembled to establish a more robust presence in India. Having lost favor with the King, he retired to a private life of which few records survive. His accomplishments slipped into obscurity for more than 300 years. Nevertheless, although he was overshadowed by contemporary explorers, Cabral today is regarded as a major figure of the Age of Discovery.

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

Colonisation2.gif

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

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