The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Colonization is the act where life forms move into a distant area where their kind is sparse or not yet existing at all and set up new settlements in the area. Colonization applies to all life forms in a sense though it is most often used in reference to insects and humans. Insect colonization varies from species to species though it most often involves a queen setting out from its parent colony and establishing a colony of her own at a suitable location. Human colonization is not to be confused with colonialism or imperialism, colonization just means people immigrating en masse to one relatively uninhabited location and expanding their civilization into this area.

In ancient times, maritime nations such as Greece often established colonies. These appear to be more benign, emphasizing uninhabited land, and farming it. In classical times, land suitable for farming was often claimed by "barbarian tribes" that lived by hunting and gathering. To ancient civilized people, the land simply appeared vacant.

Another great colonization of ancient times was that of the Romans. The Roman Empire conquered a large part of western Europe, north Africa and west Asia. Though in North Africa and west Asia they were often conquering civilized peoples as they moved north into Europe they often encountered little more then rural tribes with very little in the way of cities. In these areas of wave of Roman colonization often followed the conquest of the area. Many of the current great cities of Europe began as Roman colonies such as the German city Köln (better known in its French form Cologne) which was originally called Colonia Claudia by the Romans and the British capital city of London which the Romans began as Londinium.

The decline and collapse of the Roman Empire saw (and was partly caused by) the large scale movement of people in eastern Europe and Asia. This is largely seen as beginning with nomadic horsemen from asia moving into the richer pasture land to the west and so forcing the people there to move further west and so on until eventually the Franks and their ilk were forced to invade the Roman Empire beginning the Dark Ages. The dark ages saw the large scale movement of peoples establishing new colonies all over western Europe, the events of this time saw the development of many of the modern day nations of Europe such as the Huns colonizing Hungary, the Franks in France and Germany and the Anglo-Saxons in England.

Another great colonizing people were the Vikings of Scandinavia. The Vikings are best known as raiders, setting out from their original homes in Denmark, southern Norway and southern Sweden to pillage the coastlines of northern Europe and it is as this they mostly began however as time went by the Vikings moved more onto trade rather then raiding and established colonies again many of which exist as cities today e.g. York, Novogrod and Dublin. It was also the Vikings who first discovered Iceland establishing colonies here before moving onto Greenland where they briefly held colonies before the world's climate took a turn for the worse forcing them out. There is even very strong evidence that the vikings launched a unsuccesful attempt at colonizing a area known as Vinland which is often placed on Newfoundland or the surrounding coastline of Canada.

1492 marked the discovery of the Americas by modern Europeans and it was not long after this that Castile began the conquest of South America and the Carribean. Originally there was very little colonization other then the soldiers and adventurers who had came to these areas seeking wealth (many of whom returned to Europe as rich men) however as time went by and the natives began to die out via the new disease pool of Europe and oppression by cruel landlords leaving a lot of vacant space open for colonization by Europeans. Despite this the Spanish mode of colonization still mostly consisted of young men who found native wives leading to the creation of a hybrid native/European culture.

The 17th century saw other European nations beginning to colonize the Americas (mainly the Netherlands, France and England however many other nations attempted colonies) and these Europeans largely saw conventional movements of families into new lands.

The need for labour in the Americas by the various European nations also led to the booming of the African slave trade leading to black colonization of the Americas- today this is especially apparent in the Carribean where the largest ethnic group is of African descent.

The age of Imperialism in the 19th century saw much colonization by the European powers in Australasia and Africa.

In science fiction, space colonization is sometimes more benign. Humans find an uninhabited planet, and inhabit it. In more recent science fiction, they may create inhabitable space (by terraforming or constructing a space habitat) and call that a "colony." On the other hand, if the planet is already inhabited, much less benign consequences ensue: indeed, some science fiction authors have used the colonization of alien planets by humans, or the colonization of Earth by aliens, to explore the real-world issues surrounding the phenomenon.

A concept associated with space colonization is ocean colonization, the hypothetical permanent habitation of locations in Earth's oceans.

More metaphorical uses of the word include "coca-colonization", that is, the erosion of a country's indigenous culture and its replacement with corporate mass-culture, usually American in origin (see cultural imperialism).

See also:

Last updated: 02-06-2005 19:35:54
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01