Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview

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A study of colonialism, encompassing the processes of colonization and decolonization from the early modern period to the 20th century. Many other studies look at strategies of colonial conquest, exploitation and rule from the imperial point of view. Jurgen Osterhammel shows that the colonial situation developed in ways that duplicated neither the metropolis nor the pre-colonial society, but instead blended these and added a new dimension characteristic only of colonial realms. He emphasizes that the Europeans were normally not considered dangerous invaders by local populations until they threatened the traditional cultures with missionaries, European schools, and bureaucracy. A conviction of imperial cultural superiority gave modern colonialism an aggressive turn. The text demonstrates that the result of this was ethnic and social stratification in the colonial society, even when colonists took over the pre-colonial administration and society as the British did in India.