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Imperialism vs. Colonialism: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Imperialism is a policy of extending a country's power through diplomacy or military force; Colonialism involves the full or partial control over another country and exploiting it economically.
Imperialism vs. Colonialism

Key Differences

Imperialism is a broader concept encompassing the extension of a nation's authority over other lands by political, economic, or military means. Colonialism is a form of imperialism focused on the settlement and economic exploitation of a territory.
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Nov 15, 2023
Imperialism often involves the use of power, whether through diplomacy, cultural influence, or military force, to control other nations. Colonialism, however, specifically refers to establishing colonies in which the colonizing country settles its population.
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Historically, imperialism has been driven by the desire for territorial expansion, strategic advantage, and control of resources. Colonialism has typically involved the direct administration of overseas territories and their integration into the colonizer's economy.
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Imperialism can exist without formal colonies, exerting influence through economic or political means. Colonialism implies a degree of physical occupation and direct governance of a foreign territory.
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In contemporary terms, imperialism is often seen in the context of global influence and economic dominance. Colonialism is mostly historical, associated with the era of European expansion and the establishment of colonial empires.
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Extending power by diplomacy or force
Establishing control over another country
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Means

Diplomatic, cultural, military
Settlement, economic exploitation
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Administration

Indirect or direct control
Direct governance
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Presence

No physical occupation needed
Involves physical occupation
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Contemporary Context

Global influence, economic dominance
Mostly historical, less common now
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Imperialism and Colonialism Definitions

Imperialism

Dominance of a powerful nation over weaker nations.
Imperialism often leads to cultural and economic changes in the dominated country.
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Colonialism

A form of imperialism focused on occupying and controlling a territory.
Colonialism often resulted in the cultural assimilation of native populations.
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Imperialism

A policy of extending a country's power and influence.
The 19th century was marked by European imperialism across Africa and Asia.
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Colonialism

Subjugation of one country by another to exploit its resources.
The history of the Americas is deeply affected by colonialism.
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Imperialism

Control of one country by another through direct or indirect means.
The Cold War era witnessed imperialism through political and economic influence.
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Colonialism

Domination and settlement by a foreign power.
British colonialism led to the establishment of English as a global language.
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Imperialism

Exerting influence over other countries for strategic advantages.
Imperialism was used to secure key trade routes and resources.
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Colonialism

The practice of acquiring full or partial control over another country.
European colonialism reshaped the political map of Africa.
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Imperialism

The extension of a nation's authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political dominance over other nations.
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Oct 19, 2023

Colonialism

The policy or practice of a wealthy or powerful nation's maintaining or extending its control over other countries, especially in establishing settlements or exploiting resources.
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Oct 19, 2023

Imperialism

A political doctrine or system promoting such extension of authority.
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Colonialism

The policy of a country seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance.
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Imperialism

The policy of forcefully extending a nation's authority by territorial gain or by the establishment of economic and political dominance over other nations.
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Colonialism

A colonial word, phrase, concept, or habit.
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Imperialism

The power or character of an emperor; imperial authority; the spirit of empire.
Roman imperialism had divided the world.
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Colonialism

Colonial life.
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Imperialism

The policy, practice, or advocacy of seeking, or acquiescing in, the extension of the control, dominion, or empire of a nation, as by the acquirement of new, esp. distant, territory or dependencies, or by the closer union of parts more or less independent of each other for operations of war, copyright, internal commerce, etc. The practise of building or extending an empire.
The tide of English opinion began to turn about 1870, and since then it has run with increasing force in the direction of what is called imperialism.
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Colonialism

The state or quality of, or the relationship involved in, being colonial.
The last tie of colonialism which bound us to the mother country is broken.
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Imperialism

A policy of extending your rule over foreign countries
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Colonialism

A custom, idea, feature of government, or the like, characteristic of a colony.
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Imperialism

A political orientation that advocates imperial interests
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Colonialism

The colonial system of political government or extension of territory, by which one nation exerts political control over another nation, territory, or people, maintaining the colony in a state of dependence, its inhabitants not having the same full rights as those of the colonial power. The controlling power is typically extended thus by military force or the threat of force.
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Imperialism

Any instance of aggressive extension of authority
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Colonialism

The political or ideological system of beliefs advocating or justifying colonial control of one nation over another nation, territory, or people.
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Imperialism

Expansion of an empire through conquest or colonization.
Ancient Rome's expansion was a classic example of imperialism.
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Colonialism

Exploitation by a stronger country of weaker one; the use of the weaker country's resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country
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Colonialism

Establishing colonies in a foreign land for economic exploitation.
Colonialism in India was driven by the desire for trade and resources.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

How does colonialism differ from imperialism?

Colonialism involves occupying and exploiting a country, a form of imperialism.
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What is imperialism?

Extending a country's power through military or diplomatic means.
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Can imperialism exist without colonialism?

Yes, through indirect control like economic influence or political pressure.
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What drives imperialism?

Desire for power, resources, strategic advantage, or cultural dominance.
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How did imperialism shape world history?

It led to the formation of empires and influenced global politics and culture.
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Are colonies always a result of colonialism?

Yes, colonies are established and governed by the colonizing country.
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How did colonialism impact native populations?

Often negatively, through exploitation, cultural erosion, and conflict.
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Can economic policies be imperialistic?

Yes, when they exert control over another country's economy.
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Is colonialism still practiced today?

It's mostly historical, but some argue neocolonialism exists in economic forms.
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What is an example of colonialism?

The British Empire's control over India and parts of Africa.
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Does imperialism always involve military force?

Not always; it can be through diplomacy, culture, or economics.
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What ended traditional colonialism?

Decolonization movements after World War II.
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What are neocolonialism's characteristics?

Economic control and influence without direct political governance.
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Can a country be both imperialistic and anti-colonial?

Yes, a country can oppose colonialism but still practice imperialism.
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Is imperialism solely a Western concept?

No, many empires throughout history have practiced imperialism.
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Is cultural imperialism a form of imperialism?

Yes, it involves spreading a dominant culture over others.
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How do modern views on imperialism differ?

It's often criticized for its impact on global inequality.
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What role does technology play in modern imperialism?

It facilitates cultural and economic dominance.
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How do nations resist imperialism and colonialism?

Through independence movements and promoting local cultures and economies.
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Did colonialism contribute to globalization?

Yes, by integrating economies and cultures.
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Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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