European colonialism

Map of the World showing the last European country controlling each territory.
Colonial Empires in the World around 1800.
Colonial Empires in the World around 1914.
Colonial Empires in the World around 1945.

There are three waves of European colonialism.

The three main countries in the first wave of European colonialism were the early Ottoman Empire, Spain and Portugal. The former conquered South Eastern Europe, the Middle East and much of Northern and Eastern Africa between 1359 and 1653. The latter two were responsible for colonizing the Americas through the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.[1] This treaty was responsible for dividing up the land among Spain and Portugal.[1] The expansion achieved by Spain and Portugal caught the attention of Britain, France and the Netherlands.[1] The entrance of these three empires in the Caribbean and North America perpetuated European colonialism in these regions.[1]

The second wave of European colonialism commenced Britain’s involvement in Asia with the support of the East India Company.[1] Other countries such as France, Portugal and the Netherlands also had involvement in European expansion in Asia.[1] The last wave consisted of the Scramble for Africa which was organized through the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885.[1] The conference was established to divide Africa among the European powers.[1] Vast regions of Africa were given to Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and Spain which gives insight to Africa’s post-colonial diversity.[1]

Gilmartin explains these three waves of colonialism have been linked to capitalism.[1] The first wave of European expansion was exploring the world to find new revenue and perpetuating European feudalism.[1] Whereas the second wave focused on developing the mercantile capitalism system and the manufacturing industry in Europe.[1] The last wave of European colonialism solidified all capitalistic endeavors thorough the rising of new markets and raw materials.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Gilmartin, M. (2009). Colonialism/Imperialism. In Key concepts in political geography (pp. 115-123). London: SAGE.
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