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The modern world has been shaped by thousands of years of colonisation. From ancient times, through the middle ages and to the modern era, people have travelled to and settled in new areas and countries. As people moved, they came into contact with other people and cultures. Sometimes there was conflict leading to the destruction of the indigenous people and their culture. Other times there was exchange of knowledge, goods and traditions. This unit will first explain colonisation and then it will explore the nature of colonisation and its impact on indigenous cultures, particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia.

Definitions of colonisation

Colonisation is the forming of a settlement or colony by a group of people who seek to take control of territories or countries. It usually involves large-scale immigration of people to a 'new' location and the expansion of their civilisation and culture into this area. Colonisation may involve dominating the original inhabitants of the area, known as the indigenous population.

A colony is a settlement that has been established by people from a different place. The colony is under the immediate political control of the country where the colonisers came from. This country in control is usually geographically-distant, and is sometimes called the parent country or the mother country. People who migrated to settle permanently in colonies controlled by the mother country were called colonists or settlers.

When people colonise a place it means that they settle and establish a colony on that territory. Nowadays, because there is no new land left to be discovered, modern immigration may be referred to as a new type of colonisation. This depends on the extent to which immigrants keep the habits of the civilisation they left, or adopt those of the civilisation that they now inhabit.

History of colonisation

Colonisation has been happening for thousands of years. In ancient times, the Greeks and Romans often established colonies in other territories. Sometimes the land appeared uninhabited as there were no cities; but often there were rural tribes living on the land. The Romans, however, often conquered civilised peoples in north Africa and west Asia and then colonised the area. Refer Image 1

Middle ages

In the middle ages there was a large scale movement of people establishing new colonies all over western Europe. Some modern day nations of Europe were established at this time including Hungary, colonised by the Huns; France, colonised by the Franks; and England, colonised by the Anglo-Saxons.

The Vikings of Scandinavia also colonised many new territories including Iceland and Greenland. As time went on, their processes changed and they began to trade more with other cultures rather than establishing colonies. Refer Image 2

Modern era

By about 1500, Europeans knew that the world was round rather than flat. Between 1500 and 1800, many voyages were undertaken to explore this round world. One explorer was Christopher Columbus who arrived in America in 1492. Europeans then started exploring and trading with the indigenous people in this new land. It was not until 1607, however, that the British set up a colony at Jamestown in Virginia, North America.

Other European nations began to realise the benefits of discovering new lands and set out to claim new territories. The Dutch took control of Indonesia in 1619 and called it the Dutch East Indies. The French and English set up colonies in India and North America; and Captain James Cook mapped New Zealand, the east coast of Australia and many Pacific Islands between 1768 and 1779. Refer Image 3

Ways to colonise

It is easy to think that the only way to colonise is by force. This is when one country invades a territory and then settles this territory as their colony. Colonies, however, have not always been created by force. Sometimes nations take over a region peacefully and gradually by offering assistance and promising to look after the native state. Gradually, the parent country takes over control of the native state. Often the stronger country exploits the weaker country by using the weaker country's resources to become stronger and richer.

Types of colonies

There are different forms of colonisation. There are settler colonies, dependency colonies (colonies that do not have full independence), plantations colonies and trading posts. Settler colonies, such as Australia, were settled by people from another country and displaced the Indigenous people. A dependency colony was created when the colonisers took control of the government and administration of a territory and exercised control by threat of force, for example the British in India. A plantation colony was where African slaves were imported by the white colonisers to do the work on the banana, sugar cane, coffee or pineapple plantations. An example is the British colonising Jamaica. The last type of colony was the trading posts, such as Singapore. The primary purpose of these colonies was to engage in trade rather than colonising further parts of the territory.

These reasons for colonising will be further discussed in the next chapter.

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1. What are the original inhabitants of an area called?

The indigenous population





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