In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state, distinct from the home territory of the sovereign.[vague] For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception. The metropolitan state is the state that rules the colony. In Ancient Greece, the city that founded a colony was known as the metropolis. "Mother country" is a reference to the metropolitan state from the point of view of citizens who live in its colony. There is a United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Unlike a puppet state or satellite state, a colony has no independent international representation, and its top-level administration is under direct control of the metropolitan state. The term informal colony is used by some historians to refer to a country under the de facto control of another state, although this term is often contentious.


1 Definitions 2 Ancient examples 3 Modern historical examples 4 Current colonies 5 See also 6 References 7 External links

Definitions[edit] The word "colony" comes from the Latin word colōnia. This in turn derives from the word colōnus, which means colonist but also implies a farmer. Cologne
is an example of a settlement preserving this etymology. Other, less obvious settlements that began as Roman colonia include cities from Belgrade
to York. A tell-tale sign of a settlement once being a Roman Colony
is a city centre with a grid pattern.[4] The terminology is taken from architectural analogy, where a column pillar is beneath the (often stylized) head capital, which is also a biological analog of the body as subservient beneath the controlling head (with 'capital' coming from the Latin word caput, meaning 'head'). So colonies are not independently self-controlled, but rather are controlled from a separate entity that serves the capital function. Roman colonies first appeared when the Romans conquered neighbouring Italic peoples. These were small farming settlements that appeared when the Romans had subdued an enemy in war. A colony could take many forms, as a trade outpost or a military base in enemy territory. Its original definition as a settlement created by people migrating from a central region to an outlying one became the modern definition. Ancient examples[edit] Further information: Colonies in antiquity

formed as a Phoenician colony Cadiz
formed as a Phoenician colony Cyrene was a colony of the Greeks
of Thera Sicily
was a Phoenician colony Durrës
formed as a Greek colony Sardinia
was a Phoenician colony Marseille
formed as a Greek colony Malta
was a Phoenician colony Cologne
formed as a Roman colony, and its modern name refers to the Latin term "Colonia". Kandahar
formed as a Greek colony during the Hellenistic era by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

Modern historical examples[edit]

 Alaska: a colony of Russia from the middle 18th century until sold to the United States
United States
in 1867. It became the 49th American state in 1959.  Angola: a colony of Portugal
since the 16th century. Independent since 1975.   Argentina
gained its independence from Spain in 1810 and formed the modern constitution in 1853.   Australia
was formed as an independent country in 1901 from a federation of six distinct British colonies which were founded between 1788 and 1829.  Barbados: was a colony of Great Britain
Great Britain
important in the Atlantic slave trade. It gained its independence in 1966.  Brazil: a colony of Portugal
since the 16th century. Independent since 1822.  Canada: First colonial attempts by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Formally colonized first by France
as New France
(1534-1763), then under British rule (1763–1867), before achieving Dominion status.  Democratic Republic of the Congo: a colony of Belgium
from 1908 to 1960.   French Indochina
French Indochina
was formed in October 1887 from Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchina (which together form modern Vietnam) and the Kingdom of Cambodia; Laos was added after the Franco-Siamese War in 1893. The federation lasted until 1954. In the four protectorates, the French formally left the local rulers in power, who were the Emperors of Vietnam, Kings of Cambodia, and Kings of Luang Prabang, but in fact gathered all powers in their hands, the local rulers acting only as figureheads.  Ghana: Contact between Europe and Ghana
(known as The Gold Coast) began in the 15th century with the arrival of the Portuguese. This soon led to the establishment of several colonies by European powers: Portuguese Gold Coast
Portuguese Gold Coast
(1482–1642), Dutch Gold Coast (1598-1872), Swedish Gold Coast
Swedish Gold Coast
(1650-1663), Danish Gold Coast (1658-1850), Brandenburger and Prussian Gold Coast (1685-1721) and British Gold Coast
British Gold Coast
(1821-1957). In 1957, Ghana
was the first African colony south of the Sahara to become independent.   Greenland
was a colony of Denmark-Norway
from 1721 and was a colony of Denmark
from 1814 to 1953. In 1953 Greenland
was made an equal part of the Danish Kingdom. Home rule was granted in 1979 and extended to self-rule in 2009. See also Danish colonization of the Americas.  Guinea-Bissau: a colony of Portugal
since the 15th century. Independent since 1974.   Hong Kong
Hong Kong
was a British colony from 1841 to 1997. Is now a Special Administrative Region of China.   India
Major parts of India
were under the direct control of the government of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
between 1858 and 1947. After 1947, British India
was split into India
and Pakistan. See also Crown colony. However Britain was not the only colonial power in India. From the 15th century until 1961, parts of modern India
belonged to Portugal
and were collectively known as Portuguese India. Other parts (the town of Tharangambadi, Serampore
and the Nicobar Islands) belonged to Denmark
from 1620 to 1869 and were known as Danish India.   Indonesia
was a Dutch colony for 350 years, from 1600 to 1949. During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese military from 1942 to 1945.   Jamaica
was part of the Spanish West Indies
Spanish West Indies
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It became a British colony in 1655, then gained its independence in 1962.   Liberia
was the only African nation on the African continent that was a colony for the United States
United States
of America and a protectorate from 1821 until the Liberian Declaration of Independence
from the American Colonization Society
American Colonization Society
on July 26, 1847. Liberia
is Africa's oldest republic nation and the second oldest black republic in the world after Haiti. Liberia
was founded, colonized, established and controlled by the American Colonization
Society, a private organization who sent freed slaves from America and the Caribbean to Liberia
as colonists to settle. Due to its backing and support from the United States, Liberia
remained legally independent during the colonial era.   Macau
was a Portuguese colony from 1557 to 1999. In 1999, two years after Hong Kong, it became a Special Administrative Region of China.   Malta
was a British protectorate and later a colony from the French Revolutionary Wars in 1800 to independence in 1964.  Mozambique: a colony of Portugal
since the 15th century. Independent since 1975.  Philippines, previously a colony of Spain from 1521[6] to 1898 as part of the Spanish East Indies, was a colony of the United States from 1898 to 1946. Achieved self-governing Commonwealth
status in 1935. During World War II
World War II
between 1942 and 1945, it was occupied by the Japanese forces. Its independence was recognized in 1946.  Somalia, was a colony of Italy
and Britain from the late 1800s to 1960. On July 6, 1960, the Trust Territory of Somaliland
Trust Territory of Somaliland
(former Italian Somaliland) united as planned with the former British Somaliland to form the Somali Republic
Somali Republic
(Somalia).   South Africa
South Africa
consisted of territories and colonies by various different African and European powers, including the Dutch, the British, and the Nguni. The territory consisting the modern nation was ruled directly by the British from 1806-1910, at which point power gradually devolved from London until all remaining legal ties were formally severed in 1961.  Sri Lanka: a British colony from 1815 to 1948. Known as Ceylon. Was a British Dominion
British Dominion
until 1972. Also a Portuguese colony in the 16th-17th centuries, and a Dutch colony in the 17th-18th centuries.   Taiwan
had a Dutch colony (1624–1662) centered on present-day Tainan; shortly afterwards, a Spanish colony (1626–1642) was established concurrently in northern Taiwan, not far from present-day Taipei.[7] Chinese colonial rule was established when Han Chinese forces loyal to the Ming Dynasty defeated the Dutch in 1662.[7] The Ming loyalists later surrendered Taiwan
to the Qing Dynasty, which annexed Taiwan
into Chinese territory, making it part of Fujian province, and later making it a province in its own right. Qing dynasty rule ended after the First Sino-Japanese War
First Sino-Japanese War
when the Qing ceded Taiwan
to Japan, placing Taiwan
under Japanese control (1895-1945). After the defeat of Japan in World War II, Taiwan
was given to the Republic of China, becoming its base after its defeat in the Chinese civil war. The   United States
United States
was formed from a union of thirteen distinct English/British colonies in British America. The Colony
of Virginia was the first of the thirteen colonies. All thirteen declared independence in July 1776 and expelled the British governors.

Current colonies[edit] The Special Committee on Decolonization
Special Committee on Decolonization
maintains the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which identifies areas the United Nations (though not without controversy) believes are colonies. Given that dependent territories have varying degrees of autonomy and political power in the affairs of the controlling state, there is disagreement over the classification of "colony". See also[edit]

United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories Colonization

Space colonization


Settler colonialism Exploitation colonialism

British Overseas Territories
British Overseas Territories
(formerly Crown colony) Proprietary colony Commonwealth French Guiana


^ Constitutional Rights Foundation. Archived June 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. ^ Sharon Ann Navarro, and Armando Xavier Mejia, Latino Americans and Political Participation (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO) 2004. p. 106. ISBN 1-85109-523-3. ^ Puerto Rico:The Trials of the Oldest Colony
in the World. By Jose Trias Monge. Yale University Press. 1997. ^ James S. Jeffers (1999). The Greco-Roman world of the New Testament era: exploring the background of early Christianity. InterVarsity Press. pp. 52–53. ISBN 978-0-8308-1589-0.  ^ De Lario, Damaso; de Lario Ramírez, Dámaso (2008). "Philip II and the "Philippine Referendum" of 1599". Re-shaping the world: Philip II of Spain and his time. Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 978-971-550-556-7.  ^ Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan
claimed the Philippine Islands for Spain in 1521, but it can be argued that Spain's legitimate sovereignty over the islands commenced following a popular referendum in 1599.[5] ^ a b Tonio Andrade, How Taiwan
Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization
in the Seventeenth Century, Columbia University Press.

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Designations for types of administrative territorial entities

English terms

Common English terms1


Insular area Local government area Protected area Special
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Urban area




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Other English terms


Alpine resort Bailiwick Banner


Block Cadastre Circle Circuit Colony Commune Condominium Constituency Duchy Eldership Emirate Federal dependency Governorate Hamlet Ilkhanate Indian reservation Manor


Muftiate Neighbourhood Parish Periphery Precinct Principality Protectorate Quarter Regency Autonomous republic Riding Sector


Shire Sultanate Suzerainty Townland Village

Administrative Summer



Agency Barony Burgh Exarchate Hide Hundred Imperial Circle March Monthon Presidency Residency Roman diocese Seat Tenth Tithing

Non-English or loanwords


Amt Bakhsh Barangay Bezirk Regierungsbezirk Comune Frazione Fu Gemeinde Județ Kunta / kommun

Finland Sweden

Län Località Megye Muban Oblast


Okrug Ostān Poblacion Purok Shahrestān Sum Sýsla Tehsil Vingtaine


Commote Gau Heerlijkheid Köping Maalaiskunta Nome

Egypt Greece

Pagus Pargana Plasă Satrapy Socken Subah Syssel Zhou

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terms for country subdivisions


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Second / third-level

Mintaqah (منطقة region) Qadaa (قضاء district) Nahiyah (ناحية subdistrict) Markaz (مركز district) Mutamadiyah (معتمدية "delegation") Daerah/Daïra (دائرة circle) Liwa (لواء banner / sanjak)

City / township-level

Amanah (أمانة municipality) Baladiyah (بلدية municipality) Ḥai (حي neighborhood / quarter) Mahallah (محلة) Qarya (قرية) Sheyakhah (شياخة "neighborhood subdivision")

English translations given are those most commonly used.

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French terms for country subdivisions

arrondissement département préfecture subprefectures

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Greek terms for country subdivisions


apokentromenes dioikiseis / geniki dioikisis§ / diamerisma§ / periphereia nomos§ / periphereiaki enotita demos / eparchia§ / koinotita§


archontia/archontaton bandon demos despotaton dioikesis doukaton droungos eparchia exarchaton katepanikion kephalatikion kleisoura meris naukrareia satrapeia strategis thema toparchia tourma

§ signifies a defunct institution

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Portuguese terms for country subdivisions

Regional subdivisions

Estado Distrito federal Província Região Distrito Comarca Capitania

Local subdivisions

Município Concelho Freguesia Comuna Circunscrição


Cidade Vila Aldeia Bairro Lugar

Historical subdivisions in italics.

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Slavic terms for country subdivisions


dzielnica gmina krai kraj krajina / pokrajina městys obec oblast / oblast' / oblasti / oblys / obwód / voblast' okręg okres okrug opština / općina / občina / obshtina osiedle powiat / povit raion selsoviet / silrada sołectwo voivodeship / vojvodina županija


darugha gromada guberniya / gubernia jurydyka khutor obshchina okolia opole pogost prowincja sorok srez starostwo / starostva uyezd volost ziemia župa

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Spanish terms for country subdivisions

National, Federal

Comunidad autónoma Departamento Distrito federal Estado Provincia Región

Regional, Metropolitan

Cantón Comarca Comuna Corregimiento Delegación Distrito Mancomunidad Merindad Municipalidad Municipio Parroquia

Ecuador Spain

Urban, Rural

Aldea Alquería Anteiglesia Asentamiento

Asentamiento informal Pueblos jóvenes

Barrio Campamento Caserío Ciudad

Ciudad autónoma

Colonia Lugar Masía Pedanía Población Ranchería Sitio Vereda Villa Village

Historical subdivisions in italics.

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Turkish terms for country subdivisions


il (province) ilçe (district) şehir (city) kasaba (town) belediye (municipality) belde (community) köy (village) mahalle (neighbourhood/quarter)


ağalık (feudal district) bucak (subdistrict) beylerbeylik (province) kadılık (subprovince) kaza (sub-province) hidivlik (viceroyalty) mutasarrıflık (subprovince) nahiye (nahiyah) paşalık (province) reya (Romanian principalities) sancak (prefecture) vilayet (province) voyvodalık (Romanian provinces)

1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical derivations in italics. See also: Census division, Electoral district, Political division, and List of administrative divisions by country

Authority control

GND: 4031790-0 N