Difference Between Colonialism & Imperialism

Colonialism vs Imperialism

The difference between imperialism and colonialism is more like the difference between idea and practice. Imperialism is more of an idea. Colonialism is complete action. Colonialism and Imperialism are two terms that primarily indicate the economic domination of a particular country. Although, they both hint at political domination too, they are to be looked upon as two different words that convey different senses. Imperialism and colonialism are actually two concepts that are much interrelated. That is why people find it somewhat difficult to understand the difference between colonialism and imperialism. Through this article, we will first look at each term individually and then understand what the difference between the two concepts is.

What is Imperialism?

Imperialism is different in the sense that an empire is created first, and it begins to spread its wings to other regions, aiming to expand its dominance to the neighboring states and regions. However, you have to understand that, in imperialism, an empire or a very powerful country conquers another country to exercise power only. That is why, in imperialism, people try to keep away from moving to the country and forming groups or deciding to become permanent settlers. In other words, in imperialism, the empire does not plan on settling down in the country they conquered.
Imperialism is all about exercising total control over the other land or the country or the neighboring land by conquering it totally. It is all about exhibiting sovereignty and nothing else. The country that is keen on capturing the power and exercising control by means of sovereignty is not at all bothered whether the people are interested in moving to the country or not. They are simply mindful of dominating the land totally. This is the crux of imperialism. It is indeed true that imperialism has a longer past than that of colonialism.
However, imperialism has changed forms over the years. For an example of modern imperialism, take Afghanistan. America went there to exercise their power to eradicate terrorism. Once they completed their task, they came back. In the same manner, countries such as America and Britain exercise certain powers over other countries. Nowadays, you do not have to conquer the country to have power over them.

What is Colonialism?

Suppression is the basic idea in colonialism. A country tries to conquer and rule over other regions in the case of colonialism. In fact, colonialism is supposed to have its origin in Europe when the Europeans decided to form colonies in search of better trade relationships. People tend to move in large numbers in the case of colonialism. They also tend to form groups and become settlers.
So, colonialism is when a powerful country conquers another country not because they just want to have control of the country, but also because they want to take economic purposes of the country’s wealth. Think about all the former British colonies in the world. When Britain invaded these countries, they put down their roots there as some families settled down in these countries. Then, they used the wealth of these countries and also built a trade structure using these countries.

Key Takeaways

  • Imperialism is when a country or an empire starts influencing other countries by using its power.
  • Colonialism is when an empire or a country goes and conquers another country or region. Settling in this new region is a part of colonialism.
  • Imperialism is not much concerned with having economic benefits. It is more concerned with political power, while colonialism is concerned with both economic and political power of the conquered country.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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