Major Difference Between Colonialism and Imperialism

Major Difference Between Colonialism and Imperialism: When we talk of colonialism and imperialism, we are talking about concepts that implement one’s superiority, domination, and influence upon a person or group of people.  Colonialism and imperialism are frequently used synonymously which shouldn’t be. In this article, we are aimed at examining the two terms, outline the similarities and differences in both systems. 

Colonialism is the act of gaining partial or full authority over another nation and exploiting it monetarily while imperialism is the philosophy that drives colonialism. 

Colonialism and Imperialism

The only way to differentiate these two is to think of colonialism as practice and imperialism as the scheme of driving the practice. Colonialism is the inserting of settlements on a distant territory.

A foreign leader like a queen, king, warlord, or government in colonialism captures someone else’s territory not to combine it and form one larger entity but to have the captured territory as a different entity called a colony and be utilized for economic and commercial purposes.

Imperialism was first associated with old Rome (a fact that is borne out quite forcefully in the first pages of Heart of Darkness, where the presence of the Romans gives a sense of history). Imperialism also has a certain expansionist connotation.


Colonialism is the practice of gaining partial or full control over another country and utilizing it economically. This system results in a set of unbalanced relationships between the colonizers and the colonized (natives of the colony) and between the colonial power and the colony.

Colonialism is also termed as building and maintaining colonies in one territory by people from another territory. This system can altogether alter the social structure, physical structure, and economics of a region. It is a bit normal that in the long run, the traits of the conqueror are inherited by the conquered.

In Colonialism, one is able to see a great movement of people to the new territory and living as permanent settlers. However, they lead the life as permanent settlers, they still maintain loyalty to their mother country.


Imperialism is a system of expanding a country’s power and influence through military force or diplomacy. In other words, it also refers to the practice by which a country increases its power by gaining control over other areas of the world.

The word ‘imperialism’ originates from a Latin expression ‘imperium’ meaning supreme power. There is no globally accepted definition of imperialism, and many researchers have developed different perspectives to clarify the idea of imperialism.

But, it is generally accepted that imperialism happens when a strong country assumes control over a more unguarded country and rules its political, financial, and social life.

Major Difference Between Colonialism and Imperialism

1. Colonialism is a system in which a country conquers and rules over other regions while imperialism means creating an empire, extending into the neighboring regions and extending its dominance far.

2. Colonialism is the practice while imperialism is the scheme driving the practice.

3. Imperialism is a policy of expanding a country’s power and influence through military force or diplomacy.

4. In Colonialism, one is able to see great movement of people to the new territory and living as permanent settlers.

5. As both colonialism and Imperialism means political and financial control of alternate, researchers often think that it’s difficult to separate the two.

6. Colonialism is a form of Imperialism but Imperialism is not certainly Colonialism.

7. Making reference to the historical background, state originates from the Latin word ‘colonus’, which means agriculturists. Imperialism also originates from Latin word imperium, which means to order.

8. Colonialism is a system used to portray the settlement of spots like North America, India, New Zealand, Australia, Algeria, and Brazil, which were altogether controlled by the Europeans.

9. Colonialism is also a system where a nation conquers and administers over different districts.

10. Imperialism means making a domain, moving into the neighboring districts and growing its prevalence far.