Friday, April 1, 2016

Colonialism: How are the legacies of colonisation in Latin America, Africa and Asia different?

Colonialism: How are the legacies of colonisation in Latin America, Africa and Asia different?

This is a follow up to the question: What explains the differing legacies of colonialism in Latin America, Africa and Asia?

I am not looking for what are the absolute differences between the three continents but what are the differences that are attributable to colonialism and hence can be classified as a legacy.
Goshio Arago
Goshio AragoStudying colonial impact..

I have been studying the impact on colonialism for a while, however most of the studies which i have read from various research materials and book mostly cover Asia at large. I only know some of the very basic of South America and Africa, not specific details of colonization, so do correct me if i do not cover it properly.

South America

Mexico City Cathedral, built upon a ruin of ancient Aztec temple, using the materials dismantled from various sacred site in the city..

South America was largely colonized by the ambitious Spanish empire who had largely destroyed the great civilization of South and Central Americas, replacing it with Hispanic culture. Americas also suffered depopulation due to diseases from Europe. They were ambitious in spreading Catholicism, especially because Spain was in fact a very religious country who wanted to help the Pope as Europe's Catholic structure was on the verge of collapse due to reformation. The Spanish sent lots of Peninsulares to populate and intermarry the native population, these only occur because there was lack of Spanish women in the colonies and that keeping concubine is just a big NO in Catholic religion. As a result large group of mestizo were created, as the Criollos begun to adapt with the life in Tropical Spanish empire. The Spanish as a result begun to impose a Casta, because they do not like white blood getting too imposed with the indigenous population. Both Peninsulares and Criollos are subject to no tax and held the highest position in the colony, while it is followed by the various mix whether you are married to a indigenous women or half-indigenous and so forth... and African slaves were regarded the lowest.

The Spanish had practically destroyed the structure of society in the Americas and exploited the indigenous practices to favor themself as ruler. They extracted lots of Silver from the Americas that had made them so rich, causing other European power to also start colonizing the Americas. Eventually due to silver over-supply the price of silver went down and the Spanish economy was literary ruined because of their own greediness. Eventually the Hapsburg Spanish Empire came to an end, and the rest of the empire went on became fragile. The Castas system caused a massive dissatisfaction to the colonist Criollos and Mestizo of the Americas, who due to enlightenment wanted an equal representation. But even afterwards these "elites" of the colony couldn't agree with one another, and as a result the newly founded countries broke into several branches. The empire finally came to an end when Madrid was captured by the French, similarly the Portuguese eventually lose control of Brazil not long after the Napoleonic war.

Slavery was abolished by the Spanish empire quiet early, although they by no mean are innocent in the trade. It was however largely practiced by the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese, as a result today you have Africans dominating the population of Caribbean, and form a significant number in Brazil and USA. These slaves were often overworked in sugar and cotton plantations, and had a terrible living condition, in Brazil the life expectancy is often as low as 15 years old. Most of Latin Americas failed to truly industrialize like USA, most likely because of their own abundance in natural resource which they had relied on exporting since the colonial times. (Even to this day the elites are mostly the ones with white background)


Rashtrapati Bhavan - the former heart and symbol of British imperialism in India.

Stationplein in old Batavia, the former business district of the city with three former Dutch bank building..

On contrary to most of Americas which became a Settler colony, Asia was mostly an exploitation colony. European was allured by the richest of the orient, who eventually came to wrestle strategic trading outpost. First was the Portuguese who come to took over Goa, Malacca, Malabar, Sri Lanka and Macao, eventually taken over by the Dutch who settled in Java with their spice monopoly, and ending with the British who dominate India, Burma and Malaya, as well as monopolizing Opium trade with China.

Like the colonies of Americas, the European practiced divide and rule polities. Manipulating local rulers to have a war on one another, segregating population based on their background and as well as imposing European superiority over Asians. The European powers in Southeast Asia also relied heavily on ethnic Chinese to settle in their respective colony as laborer and run a trade with China, till this day ethnic Chinese dominates the Southeast Asian's large economy because of their historic trade and entrepreneurial dominance in the region.

In present day Malaysia and Singapore, as an example of divide and rule, there are large migration of Chinese community, who come to run business and fill in the factory jobs for the cities of former British Malaya. Indian laborers were brought in to fill in plantation estates, while local Malays and their rulers were undisturbed as farmers as they come to term with the British. This still are clearly marked in the present moderns state. In British Raj, the British clearly create a separate caste for Anglo-Indians, Hindus and Muslims. In Dutch East Indies, there is a clear separate entity created for European, Chinese, Arab and Indigenous population, however the extent was not as excessive as British colonies. This eventually led to Indian partition with Pakistan, and anti-Chinese riot in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The clear legacy that was left in Asian region was that how government were being practiced, education system's structure, infrastructure, policies, modernization, westernization and to an extent religion. Only Philippines, Goa and Timor became a Catholic region, followed by Catholic minority in French Indochina, while in former British Malaya, Burma, Netherlands East Indies the Christian are mostly Protestants. In India the parliament were run based on the Westminster system, due to the political elite's desire and Indonesia's DPR were largely modeled after the colonial system of the 19th century. The European powers created large infrastructure projects in the region which mostly function to exploit the various nation's economy, even causing de-industrilization in India, as the British desire to make India a market for their goods. Most public work such as dams, irrigation, railways, and large port remain very much functional until this day, even became the base for the many modern countries of Asia.

Till this day very few of post-colonial countries around Asia were successful, with the exception of Malaysia, Singapore and HongKong who were praised because of their British colonial past. People tend to ignore their failure in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, and even the crown jewel of India.. even till this day the Opium monopoly left a mark in Burma, Pakistan and India. Indonesia remain practically poor post independence, while all the three former French Indochina countries are pretty much screwed up. (except Vietnam very recently)

Echoes of Japanese imperial past in Seoul, the station is literary smaller version of Tokyo's main station..

There is one more colonial power which was relatively ignored, Japan and their colony of Korea and Taiwan. The Japanese unlike most of the European powers in Asia, introduced an early industrialization to these countries and imposed a rather successful educational policy. These countries (althouth they are backed up by USA during the coldwar period) are far more successful than most of Asia, even if the rule oppressive and brutal. On the contrary none of the European colonies gave their Asian subject a good education system or progress in industrial development, in Indonesia textile industry didn't even exist prior to economic disaster in 1930 which ruined the rubber and sugar market. USA also clearly were beneficial for the Philippines in term of modernizing the former Spanish colony, education were seen as primary media to spread American ideology and superiority, clearly this has left a colonial mentality amongst the Filipino people. As of today it seems that US legacy in the Philippines have left the country much less developed than its neighbor, who had far less educational and military aid benefit.


Maputo Station, few of the beautiful things the Portuguese left upon devastating the country.

​Madagascar's very French appeal..

Africa was clearly a scramble, borders were drawn without regard of ethnic and cultural diversity by the European power. The Europeans also played their divide and rule politics, by favoring certain ethnic group in their colonies for governmental role, resulting sentiment amongst the many tribes. Slavery also left the continent ravaged, though this can be blamed for the Africans themself who had sell their own people in the past.

In South Africa, Zimbabwe and Nigeria there were clearly an apartheid issue resulted by the empire's policy. White superiority even stayed in SA until not a very long time ago, while in Zimbabwe white farmers are now actively discriminated. The French promised a citizenship for their subject who had adopted French culture, thus they heavily imposed the French superiority all over the place (ie: all public buildings were built strictly in French style, similar to Vietnam's present colonial building and town planning). Africans in present day spoke European language, with a very few exception...

The Europeans while extracting many of Africa's great wealth in gems, natural gas and oil, clearly had left the continent very much under-developed in comparison to Asian colonies. For example in Belgian Congo, there is less than a handful of indigenous people who are enrolled in the tertiary education, it also make it crucial for people like Mugabe to seize power and ruled it with an ironfist with such various political issue caused by ethnic clash and poor governing experience. Europeans also relied on missionary schools to develop education because of their "cost-efficiency", though this tendency were seen in Asian colonies as well it was not as bad as Africa where literacy rate post-independence were absurdly low.

European power like France and Portuguese also are clearly upset when these African colonies demanded independence, upon leaving the country, the two power destroyed many infrastructure they had built. Those who didn't want to lose the "benefit of France" are forced to pay taxes till this day, which is very shameful for modern society. This despite that many of the infrastructure were built using African forced labor! France also are too proud to have their colonies goes off, they even wage war to maintain them and caused lots of death. It is even said that they would also carry the building back home if they could.

14 African Countries Still Forced by France To Pay Colonial Tax

Why are the Portuguese Returning to Mozambique?

The Success of present day Europe is the result of their capitalism in their various colonies, from exploiting the various natural resource and changing the pattern of industrialization. Industrialization and present modernization won't have been successful if not for the suffering of millions of victims of imperialism.
Alan Cohen
Alan CohenSystems Administrator, Rabid atheist, Old fart with very little patience for ...
I am not an expert and this really is more personal observation than PhD level study.

First: Who was your colonizer?
  1. Great Britain - probably the best of the group
  2. France - not great
  3. Spain/Portugal - really not a good choice.
  4. The Dutch - depends on where some places good some places not so great.

Second: Where was your country prior to being colonized?
  1. Were you a fairly recognizable place/country prior to the Europeans showing up or were you a a bunch of tribes with no well defined geographical locus?
  2. Was there a recognized ruler already in place?
  3. Were you able to survive the arrival of the Europeans?

Third: How were you colonized?
  1. Did the Europeans completely supplant your rulers with their own or did they create alliances with the indigenous rulers?
  2. Did the Europeans bring in the bulk of the civil government or did they educate the local populace on how to govern?
Thanks to Jose Carlos Marquez's comment amended this part to say the native population was subsumed rather than replaced. While a large percentage of the native population perished as a result of European contact, they also intermarried with the Europeans to create a new population.
Latin America is the easiest to answer. Its experience is much like that of North America. The indigenous population was subsumed by a European/African population. The result is nation states are created the same way as they are created in North America. It takes longer as neither Spain nor Portugal are willing to give up as quickly as Great Britain. And because the colonizer wasn't Great Britain the idea and machinery for self rule was a lot weaker in Latin America. The civil rule machinery was designed to answer to Madrid or Lisbon not to the local populace and so the legacy for Latin America appears to be a long hard struggle to overcome one dictatorship after the other.

The legacy for Asia is dependent upon which nation you are. Clearly, to me India came out the best. They were not geographically modified; the English ruled with a fairly light touch and incorporated the Indians into their rule. English, while not imposed, became a second and unifying language, I think that India actually benefited from the British rule. At least it made it possible for India to become the modern nation state it is today.

China on the other hand was severely exploited, and certainly leery of Europe and by extension the US. That said, the China we see today is the China created by Japan during World War II, not Europe. For the most part China did not absorb much from Europe.

Singapore, is just London moved to another locale. Of all the Asian nations this one is clearly the most European.

Southeast Asia is to a large extent a product of the Vietnam War. It certainly, didn't become extensions of their colonial past. Vietnam does not speak French, nor has a European language dominated the other countries in the area. Again Japan probably has more to do with these countries than Europe.

Indonesia probably would not exist were it not for its colonial past. I really don't think that other than bringing together disparate islands into one country there is much of a European influence. This is a nation that probably would not exist if it was left to its own devices.

The legacy for Africa really depends on who colonized you.
  1. South Africa - The Dutch legacy - apartheid - Afrikaners - settlement of the productive areas of the country by Europeans.
  2. South Africa - The English - continue apartheid (too many Afrikaners) - continue to settle the productive areas of the country - create reservations for the indigenous population.  English does become the common language. Native populations are either killed or displaced. Brings in English civil servants and because they don't trust the Afrikaners they bring in Indian's to help.
  3. South Africa - On the plus side. The transition to a Democracy was good. The nation is viable. The downside, the indigenous population is still poor and not making much headway.
  4. Zimbabwe - FUBRA (fucked up beyond all recognition) This is a country that should have been a model on how to overcome colonial rule and become a very successful nation state. Instead it is a model on how one man can drive a nation with every possible resource at its disposal into abject poverty.
  • Again an English colony. Again an Afrikaner population in place. Again, the fertile areas occupied by the Afrikaners. This was a tricky situation for Great Britain. They wanted out but they did not want a blood bath after they left. The Constitution drawn up left the Afrikaners on a equal footing with the indigenous population and "white flight" was averted.
  • Initially democracy seemed to be doing rather well in Zimbabwe. Tribal differences were kept in check and the Afrikaners were producing exportable food and other material. The economy was good and it looked like the country was on the way to becoming a successful state. Except, Robert Mugabe, decided that he was god and really needed to rule forever. Long story short - Zimbabwe needs to import food - tribal animosities are being inflamed and the country will soon land on the ash pile of failed states.
  • Here the legacy is that the revolutionary leader the English trusted turned out to be an anal pore.
  • The country was overdependent on the Afrikaners, who actually knew how to run the farms and factories, and when they left had no native talent capable of taking their place

It seems that the British legacy for Africa was decent. Democracy was nominally in place in every country they left. Most of those countries did fairly well at least for a short time after the British left. Some have actually managed to over come a lot of issues and stepped into the 21st century.

Angola, - ruled by Portugal - was clearly an example of everything that could go wrong going wrong. Slavery didn't actually end until 1961. Most people of African descent in Brazil are from Angola, and a lot of African Americans have their roots here. The primary export for this country were slaves.
  • Becomes independent in 1975. Promptly gets into civil war and becomes a proxy war for the US, Russia, South Africa and Cuba.
  • Even today there is a barely operating government.
  • So the legacy here is the country was totally exploited; never taught how to govern itself. Learned to speak Portuguese became Roman Catholic and is still struggling to overcome its colonial past.

So to actually answer the question:
  1. Latin America was created by Spain and Portugal. They carved it up, they taught it their language. They populated it. What you see today is their creation.
  2. Asia was exploited, but did not become European. Some countries became more unified others just shook off the experience. The Asia we see today is more a product of Japan in WWII than colonization.
  3. Africa was screwed. They were clearly the most exploited. They received very little benefit from colonization. They were left at their independence still reliant on Europe. The Europeans kept the various tribes at odds with one another, so to consolidate their own power.
Aishik Saha
Aishik Sahaunderstands colonialism, doesn't like the idea.
615 Views • Aishik has 30+ answers in World History.
Legacies of colonisation differ on the grounds of who was the coloniser? when did the colonisation take place? what was its purpose? and how was de-colonisation achieved?Of course the post-colonial period, its internal stability, its economic resources, and its geopolitical relations play a major role as well.

You wouldn't find any noticeable legacy of colonialism in the United States as the native population was virtually wiped out in a very large part of the country. It industrialised, expanded itself geographically and economically, and became a coloniser in turn. More prominent is the legacy of slavery and the disenfranchisement of African-Americans and the Native Americans.

The economic divide in the US follows the racial lines, a clear indication of the fact that even after a hundred years, slavery leaves its imprint.

The Atlantic slave trade, which will come up time and again in this answer, was the backbone of colonialism. It devastated entire societies, cultures, and created the foundation of the modern economy.

Latin American countries display a lot more prominent impact of colonisation. In Latin America, the Spanish colonisation wiped out entire civilisations and communities, and enslaved thousands of natives to work as unpaid labour. Yet, unlike the US, most of the Latin American states never industrialised. In spite of having a country named after silver i.e Argentina, Latin America remains woefully impoverished.

Once one of the most coveted lands in the eyes of European monarchs, Latin America suffers from crippling poverty today.

The problem lies with the fact that even hundreds of years after decolonisation, it remains a playing field for global powers, which continue to exploit it economically, encouraging its economic dependence of others.

Africa is perhaps another basket case of colonialism along with Latin America. Carved up in a frenzy, most colonisers had little vision for what to do with their colonies, and had little intention of maintaining this excess baggage. Neither did any of them put in any thought before dismantling the traditional society and administrative structures of Africans.
The British, French, Belgians, Germans, all had a different vision of Africa, and unfortunately, Africans had little to do with the vision. The British intended Africa to be another market for it to procure raw materials at a cheaper price, and dump its finished products. The French wanted a cultural expansion, especially into North Africa, with large settler communities. The Belgian King Leopold viewed Belgian Congo as his personal estate, and the Germans mostly were planning to exploit the colony to emulate the success of the British model.

Africa wasn't colonised in the forests and deserts of the continent, but in Europe's maps and charts.

The political fragmentation of Africa left most African nations destabilised and prone to future conflict.

China, which was colonised before Africa, survived the fate of Africa by political unity. While Europe carved out zones of influence in China, it continued to have some semblance of political unity. This proved to be of a great advantage after the Second World War, when colonial powers were on the wane.

In India, which became the jewel in the British Crown, colonisation sustained itself by strategically exploiting internal differences. By upsetting the balance of power in the region, the British captured and monopolised the markets. Deindustrialisation followed, and India began to export cheap labour, and raw materials for factories in Britain. Indian indentured workers were taken all over the empire and used to build the infrastructure on which the empire would stand. Indian indentured workers would work in factories, build railways, work in plantations, and created much of the economic foundations of the countries.

The real creators of the British Empire

Yet in India, economic infrastructure remained woefully inadequate, and to this day, emphasis in India is on building basic amenities like schools, hospitals, roads, and railways. Two centuries of exporting raw material and importing finished products have fundamentally altered the economic behaviour of Indians.

I have hurried through this answer, and am likely to miss a number of points. I will provide an edit when I find time.
Nathan Ketsdever
Nathan KetsdeverPassionate about History
I realize this isn't particularly in depth, but I'm going to guess than African is worse:
  • more slavery
  • more border establishment by the West which still haunts the continent today in the form of border wars

I would think resource extraction (oil, etc...) would be particularly egregious after slavery and support for war.  And those pursued via a scorched earth policy would be worse than others (i.e. for sustainability and fairness reasons).  Oil extraction is also generally associated with income disparity, which I image lead to more dictators.  I'm not sure which place was most effected by this "oil effect."