What is the difference between Colonialism and Imperialism/comparison table

Colonialism and imperialism are often confused, however both concepts have different meanings. Both colonialism and imperialism imply political and economic domination over another country, which is often the main reason for the confusion. What is the difference between Colonialism and Imperialism?

The colonialism implies that a nation take full control over another. This control is both political and military, it is also formal, direct and absolute.

Instead, imperialism refers to the economic and political control exercised by one nation over another, either formally or informally. What is the difference between Colonialism and Imperialism?

Enhance your reading: Executive power definition/functions/characteristics/presiding

Comparison table What is the difference between Colonialism and Imperialism?

Etymologies The word colonialism comes from the Latin colonus which literally means “farmer”. Imperialism also comes from the Latinimperium , which means to order, to command.
Definition Colonialism is described as a form of political and military control or domination exercised by one country over another. The dominated territories are called colonies. On the other hand, imperialism is the creation of an empire. It is exercising power over a conquered region. It is the interruption of the sovereignty of a nation.
  • Arrival of colonizers, they come to live in the new territory (like the British pilgrims who came to colonize the United States)
  • Imposition of the colonizer’s religion
  • Imperialism is often motivated by ideas of racial / cultural superiority.
  • Today it is rather the expansion of established empires for purely economic purposes.
Use of force The most common way to colonize a new territory used to be through the use of force. Many times force was applied so extensively that massacres, genocides and exterminations of entire populations, as well as their cultures and vestiges, were carried out. Within imperialism there is an important use of military forces. This deployment of forces generates social situations of inequality, which in turn generate nonconformity and violent uprisings (and repressions).
Subordination When colonizing a new territory, it used to be subdued politically, militarily and economically. The colonies used to be absolutely dependent on the colonizing country. Control in imperialism is political in nature. In the first place, the subordination is military, it can also be economic or cultural, however it is a broad political subordination.
Purpose Territories used to be colonized in order to exploit their natural resources in the first place. It was also colonized to subdue the population and gain a labor force. Most of the time the colonizations had expansionist aims.


The purpose (s) of imperialism can be any of those mentioned in the column on colonialism. In addition, there may be military strategies involved: a good military strategic position, for example.
Examples Spain colonized a large part of Latin America. France colonized territories in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States. Portugal also colonized Africa and South America. Ancient Greece as well as Ancient Rome are examples of imperialism. As for modern examples, Great Britain can be considered an example of imperialism. What is the difference between Colonialism and Imperialism?

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