colonialism(redirected from Colonial empires)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
colonialismthe political rule, either directly or indirectly, of one society, country or nation over another.
Colonialism, however, involves more than just political rule. In the 20th century it has been particularly associated with one ETHNIC GROUP dominating another within the dominated group's territory Thus, in this century, colonialism has been associated with European, white, Christian, wealthy rulers who have attempted to impose cultural values over the ruled by either devaluing or attempting to eradicate the colonized groups’ religions, languages, customary laws and economic activities. Colonialism has therefore been seen by many sociologists as closely associated with the development of RACISM. Also in this century colonization has been associated with the dominance of the colony's economy by the colonizer, and it is this that is one of the key differences which Marxist writers see as distinguishing 20th-century colonization from earlier forms. See IMPERIALISM, NEO-COLONIALISM.
Various forms of colonial rule have existed in history, but one important distinction is between direct and indirect rule. In this century, the British in Africa often relied on indirect rule, nominating indigenous people or institutions as representatives of the British crown, whilst the French imposed direct rule from Paris through French officials. See also ORIENTALISM, POST-COLONIAL THEORY.
the political, economic, and ideological subjugation of countries that are, as a rule, poorly developed socially and economically, by the ruling classes of exploiter states. This concept is usually applied to the age of monopoly capitalism, when a territorial partition of the world has been completed and the colonial system of imperialism has taken shape. The term “colonialism” is also used to mean “colonial system.”