Types of Colonialism

Added: 02-27-2018

This article categorizes colonialism into 12 groups, based on their intention, nature, participation and outcome. The largest categories are ‘settler colonialism’, ‘planter colonialism’, ‘extractive colonialism’, each of which involved some form of planting colonizing peoples in the colony and using the land, resources or people to their advantage.

mining and resource extraction agriculture western US United States (US) type state southeastern US South Africa slavery settlers postcolonial Fiji colonialism British Boers annex Africa

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
article 4 minutes NANCY SHOEMAKER 02-04-2017 https://www.historians.org/
Type Reading Time
article 4 minutes
Author Date
nancy shoemaker 2018-02-27 00:00:00 UTC
Key Takeaways

  • Colonialism takes many forms, some more subtle (e.g. legal colonialism), while others are very overt (e.g. settler colonialism).
  • Some types were more invasive (e.g. planter colonialism), while others claimed to be more integrative (e.g. romantic colonialism).
  • Colonialism can have strong impact long after official colonizing (British in Fiji).


In this article, Nancy Shoemaker explains that contrary to popular understanding, she thinks that ‘settler colonialism’ and ‘colonialism’ are fundamentally different items. From this thought, she expands to invent and label different varieties of colonialism as she sees them. She creates a list of 12 types, some more prominent and more widely used as labels than other. She discusses the following:

Settler Colonialism:

  • A colony of settlers takes over a territory, effectively eradicating native peoples and becoming the majority.
  • Example: Boors South African, Americans in American West

Planter Colonialism:

  • A small number of colonizers rule over large single-plant crops (e.g. coffee, rubber, cotton). They import a large number of slaves from other places, largely Africa.
  • Example: American South

Extractive Colonialism:

  • Colonizers arrive and live in colony only to extract a single resource, often without care for native people or environment. Sometimes results in a settled colony later.
  • Example: Belgium Congo

Trade Colonialism:

  • Colonizers live in the colony and exchange manufactured goods with local populations for raw materials, like fur and wood. This is often accompanied by unfair tariffs and coercion.
  • Examples: American Colonies, British Opium Wars

Transport Colonialism:

  • Colonizers occupy an area for the purpose of their moving through it. Does not necessarily mean native people are displaced.
  • Example: Panama Canal, Suez Canal, Oregon Trail

Imperial Power Colonialism:

  • This entails expanding for the sake of expanding the empire. Adding land, not to be a colony, but a part of the country.
  • Example: American colonies, American expansion West, British Fiji

Missionary Colonialism:

  • Similar to rogue colonialism, but fundamentally different in that it is consistently individuals who have a religious purpose to convert native people.
  • Example: Christian missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa

Postcolonial Colonialism:

  • After official colonialism ended, many countries suffered and continue to suffer from economic or cultural influence from their former ruler.
  • Example: Fiji plays British sports, Many African countries rely on tourism revenue from Europe.

Shoemaker makes it clear that these are not the only types of colonialism, nor are they mutually exclusive. In some cases, several forms of colonialism will occur simultaneously.

From https://www.historians.org/