What is Colonialism in History?

Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one nation over the people living in different areas or countries, often by establishing colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance. This article will share brief details on the impacts of British colonialism on particular sections of the society in India.

Due to colonialism, the colonisers were able to impose their cultural practices, economics and language, and spread their religion. Colonialism in history involved the subjugation of one nation by another nation and the conquering of the people of other nations.

British Colonialism in Indian History – First Established in Bengal

  • Colonial rule was first established in Bengal by the British.
  • It was in Bengal that the British made the earliest attempts to reorder rural society, and establish a new revenue system and a new regime of land rights.
  • In 1793, the Permanent Settlement was implemented by the British.
  • Each zamindar had to pay a fixed revenue, and this was decided by the British East India company.

British Colonialism in Indian History: De-urbanisation and Rise of New Cities

  • For administrative purposes, colonial India was divided into 3 “Presidencies”.
  • In the late eighteenth century, Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras rose in importance as Presidency cities.
  • They became the centres of power for the British in India.
  • When these cities rose in power, many other cities started declining.
  • Due to a drop in the demand for the goods produced, many towns manufacturing specialised goods declined.
  • When the flow of trade moved to new cities, the old ports and trading centres could not sustain.
  • When the British defeated local rulers, the earlier centres of regional power collapsed.
  • The above-mentioned process was known as de-urbanisation.
  • Surat, Srirangapatnam, and Machalipatnam were de-urbanised.

British Colonialism in Indian History – Effect on Different Communities due to Forest Management

The below-given examples will help in understanding the effects of colonialism on particular sections of society.

Shifting Cultivators – Effect of Forest Management during the Colonial Period

  • The British Colonial Government found it hard to calculate taxes due to shifting cultivation.
  • They felt that it was an obstacle to growing trees which were useful as timber for railways.
  • Hence a decision to ban shifting cultivation was taken by the British Colonial Government.
  • Due to this decision of the government, many communities living in the forests were displaced.
  • Some communities resisted the changes through small and large rebellions; others had to change their occupations.

Related Links

Colonialism: Definition, Types and History for UPSC Exam Difference between Colonialism and Imperialism
British Colonialism in India | Facts for UPSC History Facts about the Dutch East India Company
European Colonialism in India | Advent of Europeans in India [UPSC Notes] Timeline of Portuguese India and General Facts
CBSE Class 9 History Notes Chapter 4 – Forest Society and Colonialism Origins of French Colonialism in India
Decolonisation: Scope, Methods and Notable Events for Civil Services Examination India’s Struggle for Independence – Revolt of 1857 to Quit India Movement

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the meaning of colonialism in history?

Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one nation over the people living in different areas or countries, often by establishing colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance.

Who started colonialism?

In modern history, colonialism began with the age of discovery led by the Portuguese. It was then followed by Spanish exploration and by people of other European countries like the Dutch, French, and British.

What caused colonialism?

Some of the important causes of colonialism were the exploration of the undiscovered world, increasing wealth through trade, exploitation of resources of other countries, and the spread of religious activities.

What are the 3 types of colonialism?

The 3 different types of colonialism were exploitation colonialism, trade colonialism, and settler colonialism.

What are the effects of colonialism?

Destruction of the economic wealth of the colonised nation, increase in poverty, the spread of diseases, exploitation of people and resources, repression of people, etc., are some of the effects of colonisation.