History of colonialism

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European claims in Africa, 1914, following the Scramble for Africa.

The history of colonialism goes back thousands of years, colonialism is the taking over of one country by another. In ancient times peoples such as the Hittites and the Incas were involved in colonialism.

However people usually use the word colonialism to talk about the European overseas empires rather than land-based empires. Overseas empires include British rule in India and French rule in Algeria - both of which could only be reached by ships.

Land based empires are usually described as imperialism and include:

The Ottoman Empire was created across Mediterranean, North Africa and into Southern Europe and existed during the time of European colonization of the other parts of the world.

European colonialism began in the fifteenth century when the Spanish and Portuguese began exploring the Americas, and the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India, and East Asia.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England, France and Holland made their own overseas empires. However the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century many European colonies in the Americas gained their independence.

Spain and Portugal became weakened after the loss of their New World colonies and could not get back the power they once had. But Britain, France and Holland turned their attention to South Africa, India and South East Asia and began expanding.

In the nineteenth century Europe underwent industrialisation, the population got larger, armies became more organised and had better weapons produced in factories. This time became known as the era of New Imperialism. Very quickly European powers were able to take over land and included the Scramble for Africa.

After World War I the European countries who had lost the war had to give up their colonies to the countries that had won the war. For instance Britain which won the war took over Tanzania from Germany (which had lost the war)

After World War II however Europe's colonies started to become independent. In 1999 Portugal returned the last of Europe's colonies in Asia, Macau, to China, ending an era that had lasted five hundred years.