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colony, any nonself-governing territory subject to the jurisdiction of a usually distant country. The term is also applied to a group of nationals who settle in a foreign country or territory but retain political or cultural connections with their parent state. Colonies in the first sense may be colonies of settlement, such as Australia and North and Latin America before they gained independence. There are also colonies of exploitation, which have dense native populations, such as post-conquest Mexico and Peru, the Belgian Congo (now Congo [Kinshasa]), or the British Indian Empire (now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). Colonists in a colony of exploitation consist chiefly of military and administrative officers and commercial and financial representatives. The use of slaves and forced labor has often been a feature of such colonies. In a colony of exploitation, the government tends to be highly centralized and is frequently upheld by the presence of a strong police force or army; in a colony of settlement, there is generally rapid evolution from a purely military or autocratic government to autonomy or incorporation within the parent state. Since the 18th cent., colonial problems and their resolution have played a central role in European diplomacy and international relations. Strategic considerations, diplomatic rivalries, and the search for markets all led to a dramatic growth in European colonial holdings in the 19th cent. (see colonization; imperialism). In the late 19th cent., Great Britain began granting autonomy to some of its colonies, ultimately resulting in the transformation of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations. In the 20th cent., many colonial areas came under international supervision through the mandates system, or its successor, the trusteeship system (see trusteeship, territorial). The French empire was progressively dissolved, first with the creation (1946) of the French Union and then with its reorganization (1958) as the French Community. By 1990 most of the former colonies of the Western European powers had become independent nations. Those that had not were, with a few exceptions, relatively small islands or island groups; most were autonomous in internal affairs and remained colonies by choice.


For bibliography, see under colonization and imperialism.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an aggregate of attached individuals that originated as a result of incomplete division or budding. Formation of colonies is characteristic of certain unicellular algae and aquatic invertebrate animals. Colonies are diverse in shape, size, and arrangement of individuals; they may be free-swimming or attached. Among the free-swimming colonies in plants, a spherical shape is most common (for example, Volvox); there are also elliptical and, less frequently, cylindrical, filiform, and branched forms. Among attached colonies in plants there are filiform, saccate, saccate-lamelliform, and dendroid forms. Primitive colonies in plants are characterized by an even distribution of the cells within the body of mucus that unites them. In more highly organized colonies there is some differentiation; some cells move to the periphery of the colony.

In animals a true colony has a common body that does not belong to any one individual (zooid). Sometimes all the zooids in a colony have the same structure (monomorphic colony). More often there is morphological and physiological differentiation (polymorphic colony). Some individuals perform the functions of feeding; others, of defense; and a third group, of reproduction. As a result of this specialization, the zooids depend on one another and cannot exist outside the colony. The colony itself may be considered as an individual of a higher order. The individuality of a colony is determined by its morphology and the distinctive development characteristic of each species of colonial animals. In primitive colonies the individual zooids exchange nutritive matter (bryozoans, hydrozoans, the majority of coral polyps, and colonial ascidians). In highly organized colonies, such as pennatularians, a stimulus is transmitted from one zooid to another. In some, such as the Siphonophora and Pyrosomata, coordinated movements are observed.

These types of colonies must not be confused with the families of social animals (ants, bees, and termites) whose individual members are not attached to one another. Societies of animals with individuals that touch each other but do not have a common body should not be classified as colonies; the individuals of these societies originate from different parents (for example, the pseudocolony of the genus Cephalodiscus of the order Pterobranchia and the pseudocolony of some Mytilus). Sometimes the temporary cooperative settlements of certain birds that appear during the periods of reproduction and feeding of nestlings are called colonies.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A localized population of individuals of the same species which are living either attached or separately.
A cluster of microorganisms growing on the surface of or within a solid medium; usually cultured from a single cell.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. a body of people who settle in a country distant from their homeland but maintain ties with it
2. the community formed by such settlers
3. a subject territory occupied by a settlement from the ruling state
4. Zoology
a. a group of the same type of animal or plant living or growing together, esp in large numbers
b. an interconnected group of polyps of a colonial organism
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Then of course there's Patagonia -now that's what I call colonising !
After colonising the beaches and the bars of the world, Aussie culture makes a brave foray into the theatre.
(9.) Paul Rabinow, "Techno-Cosmopolitanism: Governing Morocco," in French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment (Chicago, 1995): 277-319; Gwendolyn Wright, The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago, 1991); and Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Berkeley, 1991).