Colonization happens when one country takes over the lands and people of another country and creates its own government. This action would have a lot of (mostly) negative impacts on the locals of the colonized country.
Modern colonization refers mostly to Western European countries’ colonization of lands mainly in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The main European countries active in this form of colonization included Spain, Portugal, France, the Kingdom of England (later Great Britain), the Netherlands, and the Kingdom of Prussia (now Germany).
However, some countries in the world managed to resist getting entirely colonized by the world powers, which is what we’ll discuss in this post.
Japan was never formally colonized by Western powers but was a colonizer itself.
Japan’s first interaction with Western colonial powers was during the 16th century when Portugal introduced them to Catholicism and the new technology of gun and gunpowder. The Samurai government that was ruling Japan at the time modernized its army and become more powerful, but they realized that Catholicism would hurt their authority, so they eventually banned Christianity in Japan and cut every tie that Japanese people could have with the Western world. The only European country that was still allowed to have ties and do business in Japan was the protestant Netherlands. And that became the connection between Japan and western innovations.
Eventually, Japan became too powerful that started taking over nearby countries and islands such as Taiwan, Korea, and South Sakhalin. During WWII, Japan lost almost all of its colonized territories to the West.
Modern Japan is heavily influenced by Western culture, not by force, war, or colonization, but simply because people found the Western lifestyle easier and more logical for their country’s improvement. Today, the Japanese traditions are still preserved, but mostly in museums and exhibitions.
Formerly known as Siam, the Kingdom of Thailand was never a European colony, although it was sometimes under Chinese or Japanese influence. The British and French Empires annexed some border areas in Thailand, but never managed fully to control the state or most of its territory – unlike virtually every country in the region.
Britain and France ultimately decided that it was wiser to allow Thailand to exist as an independent buffer between their respective colonies in the region.
Bhutan was never colonized by the European powers but its forces were defeated in North Bengal and Bhutan was forced to sign a treaty that gave Britain control of its foreign relations. India inherited that power when it became independent in 1947 and remains a powerful influence over the country.
However, Bhutan was able to maintain its culture very well until today. The government had to make some rules throughout history to preserve the Bhutanese culture and traditions like banning television. For a long time, Bhutan was the only nation in the world to ban television. The first night of television broadcasts finally occurred on June 2, 1999. Now the country has two TV channels called BBS and BBS 2.
Bhutan is also the only country in the world that measures its citizens’ happiness and the government actively tries to make changes and do actions to make its people happier, like providing free healthcare and free education for all Bhutanese citizens.
4- Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has never been colonized by any European power. However, In the 16th century, the Ottomans added the Red Sea and Persian Gulf coast (the Hejaz, Asir, and Al-Ahsa) to the Empire and claimed suzerainty over the interior.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud. He united the four regions into a single state through a series of conquests beginning in 1902 with the capture of Riyadh, the ancestral home of his family, the House of Saud.
Modern-day Saudi Arabia came under partial domination; in the early 1900s, most of the Arabian peninsula transitioned from the Ottoman Empire to the British Empire, though the British left much of the peninsula’s vast interior relatively untouched.
When the European powers were attempting to take over the world, the Chinese Empire was not an easy target. Similar to the Ottoman Empire, China was a powerful government too. One of the perks the Chinese had was the country’s large size that worked in its favor and made it even harder to get conquered. Britain and France could only gain some exclusive power over China’s imports and exports. Their status as favored nations grew during the First and Second Opium Wars from 1839 to 1842 and from 1856 to 1860.
After looking at all the profit that Britain and France could make, other superpowers like the US, Russia, and Italy wanted the same status. But instead of trying to colonize the whole country, the coastal areas of China were divided among Western powers, causing the Qing Dynasty to lose some, but not all, of its control.
Now, Hong Kong and Macau, two Chinese self-governing territories are reminders of that time in China’s history.
Iran (then the Persian Empire) was an attractive country to the British and Russian forces because of its strategic location that connected Asia to Europe. During the 19th century, Russia could take over some of the Northern parts of Iran that became independent countries later on, like today’s Turkmenistan. Likewise, British forces conquered some areas in Eastern Iran that in the following years became the independent country of Pakistan.
The reason behind partial European victories was that Iran was being ruled by the Qajar Dynasty which was mostly made up of politicians who didn’t know any better but to borrow money from the European banks and have luxury tours around Europe, unable to repay the loan. The British and Russian governments came to an agreement that they would control and share Persian revenues from various revenues. While the Persian Empire never agreed to this condition, it did prevent the country from being officially colonized.
Similar to Iran, its neighbor, Afghanistan had a strategic location that attracted both the Britons and Russians to itself. Great Britain held two wars in Afghanistan, the first one referred to as ‘the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839’. Not gaining much success the first time, the British army started ‘the Second Anglo-Afghan War’ from 1878 to 1880. This time, the Britons were able to negotiate control of the country’s foreign relations while Afghanistan retained domestic control.
The Nepalese government had to stand against the British army in the Anglo-Nepalese War which lasted from 1814 to 1816. Even though the Nepalese army tried its best, the larger troops of The British East India Co. helped them to conquer about 30% of the territory of Nepal. However, being mountainous enabled Nepal to resist and keep the rest of the country, since the British army was unwilling to take on the rugged terrain. As a result, British forces left the rest of Nepal as an independent state, creating a border zone for British India. Additionally, the British army was impressed by the military ability of the Gurkha troops and recruited them for the colonial army.
Technically, Tonga has never been colonized. In 1900, Tonga chose to become a British Protectorate, only to avoid German colonization. However, the country remained under full control of Tonga’s royal family and the 33 noble families, who were the majority in the Parliament. Tonga remained as a British Protectorate until it gained full independence in 1970.
When European powers were competing over colonizing the continent of Africa between 1880 and 1914, Ethiopia managed to remain independent. By the end of the competition, roughly 90% of Africa was colonized by European nations. In 1867, King Tewodros of Ethiopia wrote a letter to Queen Victoria of England, but she never responded which angered the king. He imprisoned several British people in 1868 and didn’t release them. Eventually, the British army attacked Ethiopia but failed to succeed.
A few years later in 1888, Italian forces tried their chance to colonize Ethiopia which is known as ‘the First Italo-Ethiopian War of 1896’, but failed. They tried again in 1935 under Mussolini’s supervision. This time, Italy occupied Ethiopia and overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie. Emperor Selassie regained control at the end of World War II in 1941 and annexed the Italian colony of Eritrea in 1943.
The only impact Italy had on Ethiopia was that delicious Italian cuisine found its way into Ethiopian cuisine.