Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, often by establishing colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their religion, language, economics, and other cultural practices. The foreign administrators rule the territory in pursuit of their interests, seeking to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources. It is associated with but distinct from imperialism.
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Though colonialism has existed since ancient times, the concept is most strongly associated with the European colonial period starting with the 15th century when some European states established colonising empires.
At first, European colonising countries followed policies of mercantilism, aiming to strengthen the home-country economy, so agreements usually restricted the colony to trading only with the metropole (mother country). By the mid-19th century, the British Empire gave up mercantilism and trade restrictions and adopted the principle of free trade, with few restrictions or tariffs.
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% of the globe. In the aftermath of World War II colonial powers retreated between 1945 and 1975; over which time nearly all colonies gained independence, entering into changed colonial, so-called postcolonial and neocolonialist relations.
Postcolonialism and neocolonialism have continued or shifted relations and ideologies of colonialism, justifying its continuation with concepts such as development and new frontiers, as in exploring outer space for colonization.