What is a colony?
Around 400 years ago, it was common that explorers from European countries set off on long sea voyages to seek out ‘new’ lands for their home country’s growing empire. When they landed in a new part of the world that promised to bring wealth to their homeland, they would either bribe the native people or show strength with weapons and take over the land. Many colonies — that is a country or region which is ruled by a different, foreign country with some of its people re-settling there — were formed in this way.
Often prisoners from Europe were brought to a colony, such as Australia to build settlements, cultivate the land and basically do all the hard work. Even worse, millions of people from colonies in Africa were brought to America and South America as slaves to work the land.
This way, many European countries grew large empires. For example, parts of the old British Empire include Australia, New Zealand, the United States, India and Pakistan. On the other hand, South America was colonized by Spain and Portugal and much of Asia was colonized by the French.
Although large empires were once seen as a show of a country’s great power and wealth, the native people of the lands suffered, along with their culture and way of life.
A different future
It’s impossible to tell what the future might otherwise have been for colonized countries. Some big colonies such as Australia, grew and thrived economically under British colonial rule, as did Hong Kong. Others like the United States, started a revolution to become independent, and some, like Africa, whose countries used to be colonies of different European countries, suffered severe and lasting impacts.
Are there still colonies today?
Yes. There are 16 countries that are called “non self-governing territories” — mostly tiny islands. To prevent countries from invading each other, the United Nations was formed and international treaties signed, so that countries all over the world don’t have to fear being taken over by an enemy.
By Deborah L. Caine (Whyzz writer)