What Is Imperialism?

During the Age of Imperialism, several European nations fought to control sections of Africa.

By definition, imperialism refers to a form of governance that involves the extension of power or dominion of a powerful country by gaining control of areas beyond its borders. The extension of power usually involves the exertion of power in many forms such as military ones. For this reason, imperialism is not something that is morally accepted or encouraged. There are two types of imperialism namely modern or new imperialism and the older form. The older form of imperialism mostly refers to direct colonization of other countries by European powers between the 15th and 19th century. The modern form involves control of other nations through the control of resources and markets, that is, a more subtle form of imperialism.

Imperialism vs. Colonialism

In some cases, the two words are used interchangeably even though they do not refer to the same thing. The reason for this confusion stems from the fact that both of them allude to the political and economic control of one country by another. However, a more subtle distinction exists in the sense that one is an idea while the other is a practice. Colonialism is the practice while the idea behind colonialism is imperialism.

Therefore, colonialism refers to a nation conquering and extending total dominion over another country. The resources of the country are then under the total control of the conquering nation. On the other hand, imperialism can be compared to extending an empire into other regions thus extending a dominance. As such, colonialism can be considered to be the more direct of the two.

Accordingly, people from the colonizing country began moving to the colonized nation as permanent settlers. Eventually, the conquered country becomes assimilated and adopts the ideas and cultures of the colonizer. Imperialism, on the other hand, involves the exercise of power through indirect and subtle mechanisms. Largely, the culture of the country being controlled remains unchanged.

Countries Who Have Imposed Imperialism


Britain’s history of imperialism goes all the way back to the 16th century when the country extended its authority through the East India Company. By 1670, Britain had a number of areas under its control such as Nova Scotia, Jamaica, and others. Similar ambitions were seen during the Scramble for Africa in the 19th century.


Ancient China remains the planet’s oldest empire today mainly because of its imperialistic ambitions and conquests. The conquests began during the amalgamation of China under the Qin Dynasty, which was a trend followed by later dynasties. Today, China still expands its influence because of its massive economy and powerful military.


Similar to Britain, France’s conquest dates back to the 16th century during the establishment of New France under the French colonization of the Americas. In addition, France established the French East India Company that helped to gain territories in Asia and Africa in the 17th century.


Germany’s ambitions were not that significant until the later stages of the 19th century after the emergence of leaders like Otto von Bismarck. Germany’s colonial empire started in 1884 with the establishment of German New Guinea. Other regions that were under German control included Ghana, Jiaozhou Bay, and the Solomon Islands.


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