Difference Between Colonialism and Imperialism

Colonialism and imperialism are often considered to be interchangeable terms since both of them mean economic and political suppression of a sovereign state. However, they are two different terms having different meanings. Colonialism is invasion of one country by another, mostly through economic and cultural strategies, while imperialism is suppression using power.

Though both colonialism and imperialism underline domination, the former refers to a state where one nation assumes control over the other while the latter means formal or informal control of the other’s territory, either politically or economically. Hence the basic difference between the two lies in the execution of the idea of invasion.

Colonialism is a term where the invading country rules over other territories, exploiting the resources of the latter for its own benefit. Imperialism, on the other hand, refers to invading a country, creating an empire and expanding it by conquering the neighbouring regions as well. Imperialism also involves massive export of finished products to other countries aiming to exploit both labour and markets.

Colonialism also means establishing and maintaining colonies in one region by people from the other. It can altogether change the physical, social and economical structure of the conquered territory and it is quite normal for the invaded country to inherit the traits of the invaders over time.


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    Colonialism is the establishment and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. Colonialism describes the establishment of countries like India, Australia, Brazil, Algeria, which were all European colonies between early 1500s and mid 1900s.

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    Imperialism refers to formal or informal economic and political domination of a country by the other through military force. Imperialism is a term used to describe a situation where a foreign government rules a country without formal settlement. American domination of Philippines and Puerto Rico can be cited as the best examples of Imperialism. Iraq and Afghanistan also make imperial states of recent times.

    Image courtesy: crazy-melody.deviantart.com

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