Positive & negative effects of colonialism

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Colonialism is the process of one country taking control of another, something the British Empire did quite frequently from the 16th century until the mid 20th century. Under this process, the controlling power has power over the legal and social constructs of the "lesser" society.

While this situation is inherently unequal, the results of colonialism are mixed, with some strong positive advantages and equally strong disadvantages that have shaped countries throughout the world.

Positive: Ending Poor Traditions

During the process of colonialism, the controlling nation has the power to revise or abolish certain social traditions of the region. This provides a means to eliminate damaging social trends and older ideals. For instance, after India was colonised, the long-standing practice of Sati was finally abolished. Sati was the practice where the first wife of a deceased husband would throw herself, or be thrown, onto the funeral fire with her husband as a show of mourning. It was not until the colonisation of India that the rest of the world learnt about the practice and moved to outlaw it.

Positive: Modernization

Colonialism brought modernisation to regions that were technologically underdeveloped. Modernisation projects included building railroads for open trade, needed medical advancements and schools providing a modern education. These advances helped underdeveloped nations improve their global status as centres for trade. The improvements to education provided an opportunity for colonised students to compete with foreign students in fields including literature, art, math and science.

Negative: Segregated Benefits

Many of the benefits of colonialism, such as education, were restricted to specific classes of individuals, usually based on skin colour or ethnic origin. This segregation lead to a natural segregation throughout colonised countries and established the foundation for a racially segregated future. As an example, the extreme racial segregation in South Africa, known as the apartheid, is a partial result of African colonialism. The education segregation left an economic disparity in South Africa that resulted in continued segregation after the colonial period and a legacy of poor civil rights and human atrocity.

Negative: Resource Drain

One of the primary goals of colonialism was the establishment of a resource-generating system through which natural resources from colonised regions were gathered and traded by the colonising nation. This process reduced the availability of natural resources in the colonised nations, leading to times of hunger, poverty and need. Some colonies were heavily farmed, with food stores shipped to feed populations elsewhere while locals survived on less. Further, this created a system where a colonised country could be farmed for its natural wealth, but receive no monetary benefits.