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Colonies #1: A General Overview

A colony is a place ruled by a foreign country. When we think of colonies we generally think of the colonies ruled by the Europeans, like America, Australia and Canada. The beginning of these European colonies happened during a time known as "The Age of Discovery". Long before this though, the Romans had colonies as far away as the Middle East.

Roman Colonies

I expect you know all about some Roman colonies. Take for instance the Middle East. At the time of Jesus it was ruled by the Romans. That is why Jesus was taken before Pontius Pilate to be tried. Pontius Pilate was the ruler at that time. They also ruled a great deal of Europe, and you can see many ancient Roman ruins throughout places like Great Britain. When the Roman Empire was at it's strongest, it stretched all the way from England, in the West, to the Persian Gulf in the East. Considering that they didn't have firearms, or cannons, and that they used sailing ships, that was an amazingly large chunk of land for them to control. Most Historians will agree that it was too big, and that is one of the main reasons the Roman Empire eventually lost all its power.

European Colonies

Muslims of the Middle East used to send trading caravans to the Far East and India. They brought back things like exotic spices, perfumes, silk and other precious items. These caravans weren't motor homes, of course. A caravan is the name used to describe a group of people traveling together on a long journey in search of things to trade. The Muslims used to take camels and horses with them, in order to carry the goods and themselves. The caravan was the whole thing, people, horses camels and everything else they took with them.

By the 1400's the Spanish and Portuguese had a fairly good idea about navigation, and sailing. They had seen what the Muslims had, and they wanted some for themselves. They decided that if they could trade directly with the people of the Far East, they could save money. So they set out to explore. They had to go by ship, since the Muslims controlled the land routes, and they weren't going to give them up without a fight.

Unfortunately, the Europeans didn't know quite as much about navigation as they thought. Instead of finding India and the Far East, they found parts of Africa, and the America's. When they landed at these places, they tried to do trade, but finding that they had much better weapons than the native inhabitants, they became greedy. They decided to take everything, instead of trading for it.

They weren't entirely successful in their takeovers, and in some places they set up trading posts. In the places that they gained control they took what they wanted, without payment, and ruled over the people there. Not only did they take goods, but they also took people, as slaves, to work for them.

The Portuguese must have been better at navigation than the Spanish, because they set up trading posts in South Asia and India as well as Africa and they took control of parts of South America. The Spanish took control of parts of North America, and most of Central America.

Once the Spanish and Portuguese started coming home, and boasting of their riches, the rest of the Europeans thought they had better see if they could do it, too. Pretty soon the Dutch, the British, and the French had established colonies and trading posts throughout the world. The countries ruling the colonies tried to force the people living there to become like them, and adopt the same religion and customs as the ruling country.

In the beginning the colonies were just a way of getting rich quickly. Once everyone had colonies, and the industrial revolution began, colonies became far more important. Having a colony meant you had, more materials for making things, more people to rule over and more power. So, in the 1800's they started grabbing even more land. Everyone wanted to have the biggest and best colonies.

With this increase in colonies, came the dividing up of almost all of Africa, with everybody getting a little bit. The British took control of India and Australia. The Dutch took the East Indies (now Indonesia), and the French moved into Indochina (now Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). Even the Americans, who had by then won their independence from Britain, took over the Philippines.



Now read part #2 The Reasons for Colonization


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