Difference Between Imperialism vs Colonialism

Difference Between Imperialism vs Colonialism

Civilization as we know it today has two sides. There is the ever-evolving side that comes with a more advanced way of living, and there is the traditional side. A lot of developing and developed countries are more developed because they received expatriates who taught them to read, write, and use more advanced technology. These expatriates or explorers came with the concept of domination, either by force or diplomacy or a combination of both.

To better understand how they accomplished these historic feats, it is important to understand the difference between colonialism and imperialism. These two terms are similar in the sense that they connote domination, but there are some unique peculiarities that make them vary from one another.

Definition of Imperialism

Imperialism is defined as a plan to extend the borders of an empire by conquering the surrounding regions and exerting political control over them. This policy is usually backed by diplomacy or military force, leaving the people with little or no chance to successfully act against it.

This term is originally Latin and derived from the word “imperium,” which means “supreme power.” According to scholars, this idea of supreme power is what drives the action of conquering a group of people and taking over their economic and political power. They also believe that this policy gains successful ground when a strong nation moves to take over a weaker nation.

According to history, this concept was practiced between 1870 and 1914, a time referred to as “The Age of Imperialism.” It was introduced by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli with five main intentions: economic expansion, increased political power, exploration, diffusion of ideological beliefs, and spreading certain religious beliefs and practices.

One of the unique facts in the colonialism vs imperialism comparison is that there is no need for the people to move from one territory to another. Both people retain their locations, but the conquered people lose their economic, political, and cultural freedoms to their conquerors.

Definition of Colonialism

Colonialism is defined as a practice of acquiring partial or full control of a country for exploitation and domination through force and diplomacy. This definition is somewhat similar when compared to the other case, but after a closer look, you will notice that colonialism is about the practice and act of colonizing, while the other case is an idea or general policy.

Colonialism can also be defined as a political and economic phenomenon involving various European nations that explored, conquered, settled, and exploited other less powerful nations. This practice exists in different forms— settler, exploitation, surrogate, and internal. After much research, scholars have concluded that there are four common characteristics of this practice.

  • Gaining political and legal domination over a nation
  • Bringing about economic and political dependence
  • Imposing racism and cultural inequality
  • Exploitation of the colony by the colonizing power

To a lot of people, the imperialism vs colonialism debate is considered a relic of the past, but this is not entirely true because millions of people still live under colonialism in this present time. In developing countries, this practice has taken a form known as neocolonialism.

It employs tactics such as conditional aid and cultural and economic globalization to influence the people of these developing countries, which are otherwise known as former colonies.

Main Differences Between Imperialism vs Colonialism

Basis of ComparisonImperialismColonialism
DefinitionA policy aimed at the creation of an empire, expanding its borders to conquer more regions, and exerting political control over the conquered regionA practice of acquiring partial or full control of a country for exploitation and domination through force and diplomacy
StructureAn ideology that fuels explorations to subdue other territoriesA practice of the ideology
TypesFormal and informalSettler, exploitation, surrogate, and internal
First event1870s1500s

Difference Between Imperialism and Colonialism: Conclusion

At this point, we hope you have learned the fundamental differences between these two definitions, despite their similarities. The main difference between imperialism and colonialism is that the former is a policy that drives a country to pursue world power, while the latter is the practice that backs it up. These two were tools used to conquer many people in Africa, Asia, Australia, and other places. People are still impacted by these historic acts today.