Difference between Imperialism and Colonialism
By Theydiffer - July 17, 2016

Many a powerful country has attempted and is still trying to extend their power, influence, and reach beyond their borders through imperialism and colonialism. The question is whether there is even a clear distinction between these two terms.

Definitions

The slave trade in colonial Africa

Colonialism is the act of building a colony in a particular territory by a more powerful country with the purpose of exploiting the colony’s manpower, natural resources, and markets. Here, settler colonies, or even puppet governments directly rule or even displace the local population. These colonizing nations may also enforce religious, social, and cultural structures. Colonialism also applies to beliefs that promote this system of control.

Just as imperialism views its subjects, colonialism was usually based on supremacist beliefs that the morals and values of the dominant nation were absolute, thus making them “naturally” fit to rule over the colonized populace.

Imperialism vs. Colonialism

With all that said, what is the difference between imperialism and colonialism, then?

An empire needs its colonies so that it can expand its power, dominion and wealth. Thus, imperialism is closely related to colonialism, though the two terms are hardly interchangeable.

Robert J.C. Young, a British historian, subscribes to the fact that “imperialism is the concept while colonialism is the practice.” Taking that into account, it can be said that colonialism is the consequence of imperialism. One cannot exist without the other since colonies have to be established for an empire to flourish. Without imperialism, there is hardly a need to set up colonies.

Comparison chart

ImperialismColonialism
A policy of extending a country’s power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other meansThe act of building a colony in a particular territory by a more powerful country with the purpose of exploiting the colony’s manpower, natural resources, and markets
A concept or theoryA consequence of imperialism