Colonialism refers to the act of taking control over a country politically and exploiting in economically. The ones who have power are called colonists whereas the indigenous people make up the colonies. In the 16th century, the European states took advantage of their technological advancements and colonized the weaker parts of the world. Areas like Asia, Africa, Australia, and America were underdeveloped providing the European states with cheap labor and raw materials. It also provided the colonizers with an opportunity to exercise their power and open up new markets. There are broadly two types of colonialism, namely, settler colonialism- where there is large-scale immigration of foreigners in the colonies- and exploitation colonialism – where there are fewer colonists in the colonies but huge amounts of things are exported.
As negative as it sounds, colonialism has its own merits. Let us discuss them in brief.
Positive Impacts of colonialism
- The European countries benefited a lot from colonialism, but that was intended. However, the colonies also learned a lot from the developed nations. For instance, education saw a whole new light when the developed countries took over the underdeveloped lands. The system of 3Rs was introduced that focused on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Literacy levels saw a rise in the colonies and a sense of nationalism and intelligence was born. Also, with the spread of education came a consciousness about their land. The colonies learned what gems they lived on. They also learned the art of defense. The colonists helped the colonies to defend themselves against other enemies.
- The infrastructure of the colonies also underwent a drastic change. In order to facilitate trade and luxurious living of officers posted, the colonists developed the colonies. This lead to the betterment of living standards of the colonies and also taught them ways of the civilized people.
- Health was another sector that saw a major transformation. With the invasion of Western people came the Western lifestyle and health care. This improved life expectancy of the indigenous people by leaps and bounds. Sanitation improved and the infant mortality rates went down. Along with medicines, the Europeans also brought new technologies with them that included weapons and tools.
- Apart from all this, Christianity rose. The colonists had a new audience to push towards the religion of Christianity.
The colonization also highlighted the colonies in front of the world. A sense of forbiddance was abolished.
Negative effects of colonialism
- One of the major negative impacts of Colonialism was slavery. Right from India to Africa, people were being enslaved and taken to the mother country. They were being forced to leave their families and work without pay. All this deteriorated the mental as well as physical freedom and conditions of the colonized areas.
Apart from being dragged to the European countries, colonized people were being made to work on their own land as slaves. The Europeans acquired lands in the colonized areas and forced the indigenous people to work on them without pays.
- The traditions and cultures of the indigenous people were trampled and berated. Even the clothing of the indigenous people was belittled. They were forced to follow Christianity and speak the language of the mother country. Paganism and the beauty associated with it were lost. They were forced to buy their goods and eat the food they provided them with. Along with all this, foreign invaders brought along several new diseases with them. The unprepared bodies of the natives couldn’t bear some of them which resulted in untimely deaths.
- The Europeans, especially the British used the divide and conquer policy. Due to this, they made several new boundaries that divided the natives. Families were uprooted, children and women harassed. The colonists never gave administrative posts to the indigenous people. However, some lower posts were granted to a few chosen ones. This made the chosen ones feel superior and led to social conflicts and rifts.
- The colonies were ripped off their natural beauty and gems given to them by God. Diamonds, gold, ivory, essential oils, rubber, spices, etc were stripped off the colonies and exported to the mother country. The colonies had no means of earnings and survival now. They were rendered helpless and completely dependent on the wretched colonists.
To end with, it is pretty obvious that colonialism did more bad than good, but it was an essential phase for the development of a lot of regions. Quoting Ashis Nandy from The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, “Modern colonialism won its great victories not so much through its military and technological prowess as through its ability to create secular hierarchies incompatible with the traditional order.”