Colonialism has a long history, the prerequisites for which arose already in the Great Geographical Discoveries era. The first attempts to colonize new territories include the French Crusades in North Africa. The subsequent exploration and appropriation of territories proceeded exceptionally quickly. The rapid rise of colonial empires continued during the Industrial Revolution, which is explained by the conquerors’ significant technological superiority. At the same time, the fast collapse of the colonial system starts after World War II. It, in turn, is conditioned by the beginning of the democratization and humanization of society.
Although the colonialists made a positive contribution to the economic development of the occupied countries and their involvement in the achievements of science and culture, there were undoubtedly negative consequences for the population. The policy of the Industrial Revolution period was characterized by establishing a monopoly in commerce with the captured regions, the exploitation of the local people, and the slave trade. It was supported by the technological superiority of the former. The colonization of vast territories in Africa, Asia, and South America played a significant role in the process of the initial accumulation of capital. In addition, it led to the concentration of a wide size of funds in Western European countries and the enrichment of the bourgeoisie.
The most significant benefit from colonialism during the Industrial Revolution was gained by England, which became the leading capitalist country of that time. British colonialism manifested in the concentration of capital and production in the empire to such a high degree that it provided England with the most powerful empire position during the entire nineteenth century. Colonial and industrial monopoly pushed England to the forefront of world politics.
The colonial system’s rapid collapse began after World War II, which initially engulfed Asia and North Africa. The increase in taxes, the export of food and raw materials, discrimination, and the local population’s exploitation led to a massive rise in discontent among the colonies’ people. It naturally resulted in the formation of an anti-colonial alliance of peasants, workers, and intelligentsia. In addition, decolonization was welcomed by both superpowers, the USSR and the USA. Decolonization occurred relatively peacefully in some countries, for instance, in most Western Empires’ colonies. However, in several regions, the struggle for independence resulted either in short-term riots and clashes with the authorities or in bloody wars. The relative ease of gaining independence was since the colonies’ retention as the liberation movement intensified required increased expenses. Frequently, the leadership lost control under the weight of emerging problems.
However, the colonial age is not entirely over since political independence did not guarantee the young states’ complete freedom. The low level of economy of most liberated countries forced them to cooperate with the developed Empires, which were often the former metropolises. The conclusion of unequal treaties was a logical consequence of the decolonized states’ weakness and world powers’ experience in conducting international negotiations. Finally, colonialism simply acquired a renewed form, which corresponded to novel international laws – neo-colonialism. This type of dependence assumed financial, economic, and other means of subordination instead of archaic direct political submission methods. Thus, the legacy of the Empires has been transformed into a slightly different form.