4 Types Of Imperialism (Everything To Know) (2023)

4 Types Of Imperialism (Everything To Know) (1)

Imperialism is one of those concepts that you probably learned about in school but didn’t fully understand.

There is a lot to know when it comes to imperialism, and it’s an important concept in history to understand and know.

We have put together a guide which explains the four types of imperialism and what you should know about them.

Remember that understanding history is the only way we can make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

What Are the Four Types of Imperialism?

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The four types of Imperialism are Colony, Protectorate, Sphere of Influence, and Economics.

We will break down what each of these means and gives you some examples which should help you understand the concept better.

It is also important to understand what imperialism is as a general concept.

The definition of imperialism is the domination by one country of another country or region.

Sometimes this control can happen because of the use of military force, and other times, it is done with a gain in political power.

The domination can occur in several different ways, and that is where we come across the four different types of imperialism.

1. Colony Imperialism

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Colony imperialism is when a nation with a lot of wealth or power starts to extend its control over other countries.

The nation that has more strength seems to be superior to the lesser-powered colonies, and because of that, they start to exploit them in several ways.

When this happens, the more powerful country tends to start taking resources and sometimes establishing settlements as well.

It is important to remember that there is a difference between colonialism and imperialism.

Although some historians say the lines will sometimes cross, there is more to colonial imperialism than there is to colonialism.

Colonialism is when countries are looking to acquire more land.

With imperialism, land is part of the concept, but the countries are also looking to extend their presence, power, and influence.

An example of Colony Imperialism would be Somaliland, which is in East Africa and was a French Colony.

France had extended enough of its influence to rule this country even though they are nowhere near each other.

This was done for the benefit of the French people.

2. Protectorate Imperialism

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The next type of imperialism is protectorate imperialism.

With this type, the country or a territory will have its own government, but the government of the country is not making all the decisions.

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There is another outside government (a stronger, more powerful one) which is making decisions for them.

Essentially, with protectorate imperialism, you lose control over your own country, but you are still responsible for running it.

This is different than colony imperialism because, with colony imperialism, you have no need for your own government.

Everything is managed and handled by the ruling country.

Protectorate Imperialism has happened many times in history.

One example would be when Britain established a protectorate over the Niger River delta.

The people in this area had their own government, but it was controlled by Britain.

3.Sphere of Influence Imperialism

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The sphere of influence is a bit different than colony or protectorate imperialism.

With a sphere of influence, a more powerful country will use its power to develop exclusive rights to resources or other benefits.

The less powerful country will still have their own government and their own power, but they will be losing some control.

Certain things will be out of their hands simply because they don’t have the power that the larger countries have.

This can happen with certain investments or trading privileges.

One example of this in history is when Liberia was under the sphere of influence of the United States of America.

4. Economic Imperialism

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The last type of imperialism is economic imperialism.

Economic imperialism has more to do with business and money than it does with the government.

With economic imperialism, the lesser-powered, newer, or weaker country is controlled by private business.

Instead of having another government controlling what is happening in the country, the power of the local business dictates what happens.

This makes sense considering the strength of money and the fact that people need money and jobs to survive.

An example of this in history was when the Dole Fruit company controlled the pineapple trade in Hawaii.

This had nothing to do with government control of any sort.

It was all because of the power of money and big business.

Sometimes economic imperialism can happen in smaller countries without the citizens even being aware it is happening.

Generally, the business that is involved in economic imperialism is looking to benefit themselves in some way.

The business will not have any checks-and-balances systems in place, and it is generally not a good thing for a country to be controlled by economic imperialism.

(Video) Types of Imperialism (Colony, Protectorate, Sphere of Influence)

What Are the Two Imperial Management Methods?

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With imperialism, there are often two ways it is managed.

The first way is indirect control, and the second way is direct control.

You can look at these methods any way you like, but there are a few important facts to know about both types.

The indirect method is used when taking advantage of the strengths of the local government and simply assisting and aiding.

There is limited rule by the more powerful country, and the goal is to eventually develop leaders in the weaker country.

With indirect rule, the concepts are based on the larger styles (like the United States or European), but local rules and concepts may be taken into consideration.

Direct control is a bit different, and it is where the more powerful country takes complete control.

They will bring in officials from the larger country and let them stay in the new country and rule from there.

The idea is to get the people of the new colony or country to completely conform to the style and the ways of the larger, more powerful group.

No local rules or concepts are taken into consideration, and this type of rule generally tends to anger the populace.

Their country is essentially being taken over with no regard for what they want to happen.

Is Imperialism a Good or a Bad Thing?

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Imperialism has worked out as both a good and a bad thing throughout history.

There are many examples of how it helped a country and also how it hurt a country.

Let’s take, for example, the British Imperialism in Africa.

The negatives were, of course, that the African people had their lives completely disrupted.

They lost control of their lands, and they were no longer an independent country as they were under the control of the British.

Of course, as this process was happening, there were many Africans who chose to resist.

Unfortunately, there were many who lost their lives in this process of fighting for their independence and freedom to make their own choices.

Another unfortunate impact was that some of the strong cultural aspects of the country started to break down.

Since the Europeans were trying to get the Africans to assimilate to their culture, they discouraged much of the traditional ways of life.

Families and homes were broken up, and traditional practices were amended to conform to European norms.

Europeans also split the country however they felt necessary, and this was unfortunate, to say the least.

It has caused many problems for the people of Africa even years after the British first started their efforts.

Of course, the overall impacts of imperialism in this instance were negative.

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The lives and the interests of the African people were initially ignored, and they were forced to enter a new way of life.

There were, however, a few positive changes that did occur, even if they did come with force and unrest.

There was more money in Africa with imperialism, and this did help when it came to building and expanding the countries.

People had more access to schools and hospitals, and even new technologies have been introduced.

Things like telephone lines, railroads, and dams were installed.

Although these did benefit the African people in some ways, they were not necessarily built for the Africans.

Instead, this was a business venture on behalf of the Europeans.

As you can see, most of this example of imperialism was negative for the weaker country and positive for the more powerful country.

Unfortunately, this has often been the case when dealing with examples of imperialism throughout history.

What is Modern Imperialism?

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Imperialism is something that has existed at all different times throughout history.

The more recent examples of imperialism are considered new or modern imperialism.

The term new imperialism describes a time period in history when several key countries started to extend their influence over other parts of the world.

The main countries involved were those in Western Europe as well as United States, Russia, and Japan.

The new imperialism or modern imperialism mostly took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

These large countries were looking to gain territory and grow in strength by acquiring control in other areas.

The industrial revolution had some part in this as new technologies and discoveries gave people the idea that all areas of the world needed these things.

Larger countries also wanted to see what resources they could gain access to by establishing some rule over other areas.

There were still discoveries to be made regarding natural resources and trade resources, and these were a large part of what led new imperialism.

Lots of changes happened in the world during new imperialism.

This was when most of Africa was taken over by other countries and even part of Asia as well.

After the age of the new imperialism, many countries started to regain their independence.

This happened after World War II.

As we mentioned earlier, imperialism was not always a good thing, and the age of new imperialism certainly angered many people and caused some great divides.

Unfortunately, some of those divides still exist today.

What is the Difference Between New Imperialism and Old Imperialism?

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(Video) Rationales for IMPERIALISM [AP World History] Unit 6 Topic 1 (6.1)

Now that you have a general idea of what new imperialism is, you may be wondering what the difference between new and old imperialism is.

The difference mostly has to do with the time period.

New imperialism happened during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Old imperialism was a time during the 1600s and even earlier.

The industrial revolution greatly influenced new imperialism.

Older imperialism was happening in a much simpler time, although there were advancements during this period as well.

During old imperialism, the mercantile system was introduced, and some countries were starting to get a bit more sophisticated in their financial dealings.

With new imperialism, you saw a need for large countries to get larger.

They wanted more money, more resources, and more economic power over other countries.

Although this was sometimes a motivator in old imperialism, there were other objectives as well.

With old imperialism, countries were looking to spread religious beliefs, to look for gold, and to win battles with other areas of the world.

The objectives were not solely financial, and that is genuinely what made them a little more unpredictable and undefined.

As we mentioned, new imperialism was largely led by Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and the USA while there were other influencers in the earlier imperialism.

In old imperialism, the biggest players were Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, France, and Britain.

As you can see, Britain and France were heavily involved in both times of imperialism.

Unfortunately, many of the same difficult effects we saw with old imperialism repeated themselves with new imperialism.

What Is Decolonization?

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Decolonization is when a country becomes independent of the country which had established rule over it.

This is what started to happen after World War II when many areas of the world once again became independent.

Although decolonization can be a great time period in the history of a country, it also takes a bit of work.

All of a sudden, a country that was under the complete rule is now left on their own to figure out what they need to do to run and operate their country.

For some, this led to tremendous growth and change, while others discovered that they were better off remaining a colony of another country.

The entire process of old imperialism, new imperialism, and the decolonization of many areas are very interesting to study and understand as it has a major impact on the makeup of our world.


Hopefully, our article highlighting the four types of imperialism has helped clear up some of the questions that you had.

Sometimes when we are younger, and we learn this information while studying for a test, the true impact of the people, the change, and the experience is lost.

Looking back and thinking about what it would have been like to be a part of imperialism makes us all realize the differences between the world then and the world now.

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There are hundreds of examples of imperialism in history, and it is essential to understand them and have a general concept as to how we arrived where we are today.


What are the four 4 types of imperialism? ›

TEHRAN Today there are at least four types of imperialism in the world, military, political, economic, and cultural. In the past the imperialistic countries used military and political imperialism to establish themselves, and then initiated economic and cultural imperialism.

What are 4 things about imperialism? ›

The four major motives for imperialism are economic, strategic, religious and political. These motives helped great empires expand their territory and brought new cultures and languages to both the colonised countries and the countries colonising them.

What are the 4 forms of imperialism quizlet? ›

  • 4 forms of Imperialism. colony: a country controls a reign internally by foreign power. ...
  • direct rule. one countries domination of political economic or cultural life of another.
  • paternalism. governing colonies as parents would guide children.
  • scramble for Africa. ...
  • indirect. ...
  • Protectorate. ...
  • cash crop. ...
  • assimilation.

What are the four 4 reasons for American imperialism? ›

  • Economic. In America. - need for new markets for exports. - need for additional sources of raw materials. ...
  • Political. In Europe. - Nationalist Factor; competition for new colonies (culmination = WWI) ...
  • Social / Moral. In Europe. Westerners believe in spreading western ideas & Christianity (law, medicine, religion)

What are the types of imperialism? ›

What are three types of imperialism? The three types of imperialism are colonies, protectorates, and spheres of influence.

What are the main factors of imperialism? ›

Imperialism results from a complex of causes in which in varying degrees economic pressures, human aggressiveness and greed, the search for security, the drive for power and prestige, nationalist emotions, humanitarianism, and many other factors are effective.

What were the four major reasons for imperialism quizlet? ›

Four reasons for imperialism are money, national pride, racism, and religion. Europeans wanted colonies to provide raw materials for their factories and to sell their goods in the new colonies. Some nations wanted to gain colonies to show their national strength.

What are 4 positive effects of imperialism? ›

Better health care facilities were provided. New transportation systems such as rail, road sea and air were introduced. New languages, religions and a new way of life were introduced. The imperialists countries gained cheap, efficient workforce.

What were the 4 motives for imperialism in Africa? ›

RELIGIOUS motives included the desire to spread Christianity, to protect European missionaries in other lands, to spread European values and moral beliefs, to educate peoples of other cultures, and to end the slave trade in Africa.

What are the 4 lasting impacts of imperialism in Africa? ›

There were several negatives of colonialism for the Africans like resource depletion, labor exploitation, unfair taxation, lack of industrialization, dependence on cash crop economy, prohibition of trade, the breaking up of traditional African society and values, lack of political development, and ethnic rivals inside ...

What are 4 causes of imperialism in Africa? ›

What Were the Causes of European Imperialism in Africa?
  • Rivalry between Nations. European imperialism in Africa was partly due to rivalries between the different European countries involved, with Britain, Germany and France the dominant powers. ...
  • Trading Resources. ...
  • Strategy and Convenience. ...
  • Economic Benefits.
Jun 25, 2018

What are the elements of imperialism? ›

Imperialism can be defined as a doctrine, political strategy, practice, state policy, or advocacy that consists in extending power by territorial acquisition or by extending political and economic control outward over other areas.

What were the 4 motives that caused the growth of imperialism in the 1800s? ›

The most active European countries in terms of imperialism were Britain, France, and Germany. In the late 1800's, economic, political, and religious motives prompted these nations to expand their influence over other regions, each with a goal to increase their power across the globe.

What are the 5 factors of imperialism? ›

What are the Five Motives for Imperialism? The conquering and occupying of countries around the world was driven by five main motives: exploratory, economic, political, ideological, and religious.

What are the 3 main goals of imperialism? ›

The five main motives for imperialism include exploration, economic expansion, increased political power, the diffusion of ideological beliefs, and the spreading of religious beliefs and practices to others.

What are 3 examples of US imperialism? ›

U.S. imperialism took a variety of forms in the early 20th century, ranging from colonies in Puerto Rico and the Philippines to protectorates in Cuba, Panama, and other countries in Latin America, and open door policies such as that in China.

What are the periods of imperialism? ›

The Age of Imperialism is typified by the colonization of the Americas between the 15th and 19th centuries, as well as the expansion of the United States, Japan, and the European powers during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Why did imperialism start? ›

They wanted to increase their political power and prestige. Every country was in competition with its rivals. You took territory – simply to prevent your rival from getting it! Every imperialist country was worried about its own national security: The competition among imperialist powers was vicious.

Why is imperialism important? ›

Imperialism was responsible for reforming the European alliances. Imperialist expansion played a major role in the growing tensions between Germany and Great Britain after the turn of the century. The growing imperialist rivalry was responsible for the slow formation of an anti-German alliance system in Europe.

What are the 6 reasons for imperialism? ›

The following are the causes for the rise of Imperialism.
  • Industrial revolution : Industrial revolution in European countries resulted in a great increase in production. ...
  • National security : ...
  • Nationalism : ...
  • Balance of Power : ...
  • Discovery of new routes : ...
  • Growth of population : ...
  • State of Anarchy :

What are the impact of imperialism? ›

However, the effects of imperialism go much farther beyond conquest: forceful slavery-like conditions in the colonized territories imposed great sufferings among the native population, and in many cases, unjust repression by the colonizing power led to the mass killings of a great number of people.

What are the 4 factors that led to the Europeans colonizing Africa? ›

The major reasons for the colonization of Africa by the Europeans were the search for new markets, the need to obtain raw materials, the desire to invest surplus capital outside Europe, and the claim that Africans needed to be civilized through western education and religion.

What are 3 effects of imperialism? ›

Imperialism impacted societies in countless negative ways. It led to slave trade which then led to social discrimination around the world. It also damaged the cultures and created disunity among the natives. Last but not least, imperialism stripped countries off their natural resources and left nothing for the natives.

What were 3 economic effects of imperialism in Africa? ›

The consequences of economic imperialism on West Africa have included exploitative resource extraction, proxy and resource influenced civil wars, illegal trade in natural resources, mass poverty, and external migration of skilled workers necessary for national development.

What were 3 effects of European imperialism in Africa? ›

Answer and Explanation: Three effects Africa encountered because of European Imperialism were shortages of natural resources, death of Africans from European diseases, and increase of wars and revolutions.

What are 3 reasons for imperialism quizlet? ›

Desire to gain power, to compete with other European countries, to expand territory, to exercise military force, to gain prestige by winning colonies, and to boost national pride and security.

What were the 4 imperial wars? ›

King William's War (1689-1697), the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) all stemmed primarily from European antagonisms.

What were the 4 types of colonialism used in the Americas? ›

There are different types of colonialism, namely settler, exploitation, plantation, surrogate, and internal colonialism—all of which are exploitative and oppressive.

What are the three imperial powers? ›

  • 8.10.1 England.
  • 8.10.2 Scotland.
  • 8.10.3 Great Britain.

What were the main imperial powers? ›

In most of the imperial powers (Britain, France, Germany, and Italy), elites with different backgrounds were convinced that only expanding countries with colonies or informal spheres of influence would be able to survive in the future.

Who were the imperial power? ›

Between the 15th century and the middle of the 18th, England, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain built empires in the Americas, India, and the East Indies. Russia, Italy, Germany, the United States, and Japan became imperial powers in the period from the middle of the 19th century to World War I.

What are the 4 main colonies? ›

Map of the eastern seaboard, showing New England colonies (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut), Middle colonies (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware), Chesapeake colonies (Virginia, Maryland), and Southern colonies (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia).

What are the 4 colonizing countries? ›

Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands established colonies in North America. Each country had different motivations for colonization and expectations about the potential benefits.

What were the 7 major causes of imperialism? ›

The following are the causes for the rise of Imperialism.
  • Industrial revolution : Industrial revolution in European countries resulted in a great increase in production. ...
  • National security : ...
  • Nationalism : ...
  • Balance of Power : ...
  • Discovery of new routes : ...
  • Growth of population : ...
  • State of Anarchy :

What were the 3 main causes of the new imperialism? ›

This New Imperialist Age gained its impetus from economic, military, political, humanitar- ian, and religious reasons, as well as from the development and acceptance of a new theory—Social Darwinism— and advances in technology.

What is an example of direct imperialism? ›

Direct imperialism involves conquering and then directly ruling an area. The imperial nation supplies administration backed by military force. Most imperialism is of this type - the conquests of the Romans or the British Empire of the 19th century, for instance.

What is an example of social imperialism? ›

Wehler argued German colonial policy in the 1880s was the first example of social imperialism in action, and was followed up by the Tirpitz Plan for expanding the German Navy starting in 1897.


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