Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Colony, in the widest sense, is a settlement in some foreign and uncivilised country. Modern usage applies the term only so long as the settlement remains a dependency of the mother country. But the Greek colonies almost always, and the Phoenician frequently, were independent from the first. The latter were originally "factories" or trading ports. Some of them, however, grew into independent cities (Carthage for instance). Later the pressure of population in Greece caused numerous colonies to be founded on the Euxine, in Sicily and South Italy, and North Africa, between 730 and 500 A.D., almost always under the direction of the Delphic or some other oracle. These colonies (apoikiai) are to be distinguished from the mere trading posts, of which Miletus (for instance) had many on the Euxine. The first band of settlers was led by a founder, who gave the new city its laws and was worshipped after his death as a kind of patron saint. The apoikiai was a city community politically independent (with one or two doubtful exceptions) of its mother city or "metropolis," and connected with it only by the tie of religious sentiment. The same relation is said to exist between certain pairs of villages in Russia, one of which traces its origin from the other. "Mother" and "daughter" villages were also recognised in early Germany. By about 470 B.C. hardly any more sites were available, and the pressure of population in Athens, and to some extent in Corinth, was then relieved by founding "kleruchies" (lit. allotments) on part of the territory of subject states. These settlements, which historians do not usually call colonies, as they had little (if any) separate political organisation, were really garrisons primarily, and secondarily relieved the pressure of population at home. Roman colonies had the same objects as these "kleruchies," but had a distinct municipal organisation. The two objects varied in relative importance at different periods. During the last century of the Roman Republic the object was mainly to provide subsistence for poor citizens. Under the Empire the colonies were always settlements of discharged soldiers, and were thus both a substitute for pensions and a means of securing the provinces. Cologne and Lincoln preserve the Roman name Colonia.

A few modern colonies have been convict settlements, or founded primarily as an outlet for population; but most have been founded originally with a view to trade. Venice in the Middle Ages held a number of dependencies in Albania, Greece, and elsewhere, held and governed solely in the interests of her trade. During the 15th century the Portuguese pushed their way along the West African coast, occupied Madeira, the Azores, and points on the mainland, and were followed by the Spanish. In 1492 Columbus found his way to the West Indies; in 1497 the Portuguese doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and founded several trading ports (on the Venetian plan) in India. One or other of these nations speedily conquered various parts of South and Central America, solely, it would seem, with a view to the stores of gold and silver that existed there. Grants of land were, however, made to Spanish and Portuguese subjects, who settled and worked their estates much as they would have done at home. The English colonies were founded partly also with a view to obtain gold and silver, but were usually managed by commercial companies; Newfoundland was founded in 1607, Virginia in the same year. But the decay of the old land system in England and the religious difficulties stimulated emigration, as in the case of the Pilgrim Fathers, and many of Cromwell's Irish and Scottish prisoners were sent by him to the West Indies and the Carolinas. So also after Monmouth's rebellion; and convicts were long sent to Virginia. The French colony in Canada was founded in 1603. The Dutch gradually supplanted Portugal in the East 1602-1609, and founded Batavia (q.v.) in 1618. All European natives regarded their colonies at first as sources of a supply of gold and silver; when it was found that many of them did not contain it, their trade was put under oppressive restrictions to give the mother country the monopoly of their commerce. They were regarded as providing markets for its manufactures, and as furnishing it with valuable products which it could sell for specie. This "colonial system" was most thoroughly applied by Spain and Portugal, with the effect of checking their own development, by withdrawing their capital, as well as hampering the progress of their colonies. In England it originated under Cromwell, but was far less thoroughly applied than abroad. Still, the usual relation of official England to the colonies in the last century may be illustrated by the story of the English statesman who, being asked to appoint chaplains for the good of the souls of the colonists, cursed their souls and bid them grow tobacco.

The rising in Canada (q.v.) in 1837 made it necessary to concede responsible government to it. Victoria was the first Australian colony to receive a like privilege (in 1857). At present there are three classes of English colony: - Crown colonies, which are governed from the Colonial Office, colonies with representative institutions but not responsible government, in which the Home Government has a veto on legislation, and colonies with responsible government, like Canada and New South Wales, between which and the mother country the Governor-General is practically the only political link. (For the various English colonies see separate headings.) Of foreign nations, only France, Spain, Portugal, and Holland now possess important colonies. Denmark has Iceland, a few settlements in Greenland, and some small West Indian islands; Spain has Cuba, Porto Rico, the Philippine, Caroline, and other islands; Portugal holds Goa, Macao, the Cape Verde Islands, and settlements on the coast of E. and W. Africa; Holland has Java, Sumatra, and other East Indian islands, Surinam, and some islands off the coast of Venezuela; France has part of Guiana, and also possessions in India, Cochin China, W. Africa, and Oceania, besides protectorates in Madagascar, Tunis, Annam.etc. (Algeria does not rank as a colony). Italy possesses one small and useless colony in Abyssinia. The area and population of these colonies is approximately as under (excluding protectorates and spheres of influence): -

Area - sq. miles.Population
Colonies of France1,574,00040,000,000
Colonies of Holland766,00030,000,000
Colonies of Spain407,00012,000,000
Colonies of Portugal866,0005,800,000
Colonies of Denmark87,000116,000
British Colonies (excluding India)7,200,00020,000,000

British India, with its 210 millions of population and more than a million square miles of area, has more right to be considered a colony than most foreign colonies so-called.

The French colonies are represented in the legislature; the colonies of other countries are governed much like the British Crown colonies.

The doctrine of the last century, that colonies should serve as markets for home produce, still governs the colonial policy of most foreign countries, owing to the prevalence of Protectionism.

Colonisation on a great scale has seldom been carried out on any scientific system. Prof. Seeley has remarked that the English people seem almost to have picked up their colonial empire in a fit of absence of mind. Mr. E. G. Wakefield some sixty years ago suggested that care should be taken to send out artisans as well as agriculturists to Australia, that the various classes of producers might exchange their wares and so stimulate production. His advice was followed in "assisted emigration," which has, however, now been generally discontinued.