In the simplest terms, colonialism is when one country controls another country or area. The area that is being controlled is referred to as a colony, and it is through the ongoing process of colonization that one country comes to control another. When a country is colonized, politics, finance, and religion – among many other aspects of everyday life – undergo changes that can range from minimal to drastic. This online resource focuses on the European colonial period, beginning in the late 15th century and continuing until the 19th century, in which a number of European empires explored Asia, Africa, and the Americas, establishing colonies in these parts of the world. While European colonialism resulted in the unfair treatment of the local people living in the colonies, and sometimes even devastation of their entire culture, colonial interaction also resulted in the exchange of skills and knowledge, which has produced a varied array of art and architecture, some incredibly unique. In order to better understand the works of colonial architecture included in this online resource, histories of the different colonies covered in this website have been included below, which should help to contextualize these works of architecture and to provide insight into the long colonial journeys from which these buildings were born.
A note on the presentation of colonial histories in this online resource:
Colonialism is not a single history; many countries enlisted their best explorers and powerful armies to locate and conquer places all over the world. Providing a single historical timeline of European colonialism would be incredibly confusing due to the complicated histories of colonies and their colonizers. Therefore, European colonialism will be broken up into multiple histories, with each empire constituting its own history. This being said, there was certainly communication and competition between European empires, and their histories do have crossovers. For example, the Portuguese made the first forays into India, colonizing areas on the Western coast, but as the Portuguese empire lost their stronghold, the Dutch, and then the British moved in, colonizing areas of the country.