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Colonialism is the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a set of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony and often between the colonists and the indigenous population.
The European colonial period was the era from the 16th century to the mid-20th century when several European powers (particularly, but not exclusively, Portugal, Spain, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and France) established colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. At first the countries followed mercantilist policies designed to strengthen the home economy at the expense of rivals, so the colonies were usually allowed to trade only with the mother country. By the mid-19th century, however, the powerful British Empire gave up mercantilism and trade restrictions and introduced the principle of free trade, with few restrictions or tariffs.
Collins English Dictionary defines colonialism as "the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker people or areas." The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers four definitions, including "something characteristic of a colony" and "control by one power over a dependent area or people."
The 2006 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy "uses the term 'colonialism' to describe the process of European settlement and political control over the rest of the world, including Americas, Australia, and parts of Africa and Asia." It discusses the distinction between colonialism and imperialism and states that "given the difficulty of consistently distinguishing between the two terms, this entry will use colonialism as a broad concept that refers to the project of European political domination from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries that ended with the national liberation movements of the 1960s."
In his preface to Jürgen Osterhammel's Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview, Roger Tignor says, "For Osterhammel, the essence of colonialism is the existence of colonies, which are by definition governed differently from other territories such as protectorates or informal spheres of influence." In the book, Osterhammel asks, "How can 'colonialism' be defined independently from 'colony?'" He settles on a three-sentence definition:
Colonialism is a relationship between an indigenous (or forcibly imported) majority and a minority of foreign invaders. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonized people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis. Rejecting cultural compromises with the colonized population, the colonizers are convinced of their own superiority and their ordained mandate to rule.
Historians often distinguish between two overlapping forms of colonialism:
Plantation colonies would be considered exploitation colonialism; but colonizing powers would utilize either type for different territories depending on various social and economic factors as well as climate and geographic conditions.
Surrogate colonialism involves a settlement project supported by colonial power, in which most of the settlers do not come from the mainstream of the ruling power.
As colonialism often played out in pre-populated areas, sociocultural evolution included the formation of various ethnically hybrid populations. Colonialism gave rise to culturally and ethnically mixed populations such as the mestizos of the Americas, as well as racially-divided populations such as those found in French Algeria or in Southern Rhodesia. In fact, everywhere where colonial powers established a consistent and continued presence, hybrid communities existed.
Notable examples in Asia include the Anglo-Burmese, Anglo-Indian, Burgher, Eurasian Singaporean, Filipino mestizo, Kristang and Macanese peoples. In the Dutch East Indies (later Indonesia) the vast majority of "Dutch" settlers were in fact Eurasians known as Indo-Europeans, formally belonging to the European legal class in the colony (see also Indos in Pre-Colonial History and Indos in Colonial History).
Activity that could be called colonialism has a long history, starting with the pre-colonial African empires which led to the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans who all built colonies in antiquity. The word "metropole" comes from the Greek metropolis [Greek: "μητρόπολις"]—"mother city". The word "colony" comes from the Latin colonia—"a place for agriculture". Between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Vietnamese established military colonies south of their original territory and absorbed the territory, in a process known as nam tiến.
Modern colonialism started with the Age of Discovery. Portugal and Spain discovered new lands across the oceans and built trading posts or conquered large extensions of land. For some people, it is this building of colonies across oceans that differentiates colonialism from other types of expansionism. These new lands were divided between the Portuguese Empire and Spanish Empire, first by the papal bull Inter caetera and then by the Treaty of Tordesillas and the Treaty of Zaragoza (1529).
This period is also associated with the Commercial Revolution. The late Middle Ages saw reforms in accountancy and banking in Italy and the eastern Mediterranean. These ideas were adopted and adapted in western Europe to the high risks and rewards associated with colonial ventures.
The 17th century saw the creation of the French colonial empire and the Dutch Empire, as well as the English overseas possessions, which later became the British Empire. It also saw the establishment of a Danish colonial empire and some Swedish overseas colonies.
The spread of colonial empires was reduced in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the American Revolutionary War and the Latin American wars of independence. However, many new colonies were established after this time, including the German colonial empire and Belgian colonial empire. In the late 19th century, many European powers were involved in the Scramble for Africa.
The Russian Empire, Ottoman Empire and Austrian Empire existed at the same time as the above empires, but did not expand over oceans. Rather, these empires expanded through the more traditional route of conquest of neighbouring territories. There was, though, some Russian colonization of the Americas across the Bering Strait. The Empire of Japan modelled itself on European colonial empires. The United States of America gained overseas territories after the Spanish-American War for which the term "American Empire" was coined.
After the First World War, the victorious allies divided up the German colonial empire and much of the Ottoman Empire between themselves as League of Nations mandates. These territories were divided into three classes according to how quickly it was deemed that they would be ready for independence. However, decolonisation outside the Americas lagged until after the Second World War. In 1962 the United Nations set up a Special Committee on Decolonization, often called the Committee of 24, to encourage this process.
Further, dozens of independence movements and global political solidarity projects such as the Non-Aligned Movement were instrumental in the decolonization efforts of former colonies.
The major European empires consisted of the following colonies at the start of World War I (former colonies of the Spanish Empire became independent before 1914 and are not listed; former colonies of other European empires that previously became independent, such as the former French colony Haiti, are not listed):
British colonies and protectorates:
Russian Empire and protectorates
By 1914, Europeans had migrated to the colonies in the millions. Some intended to remain in the colonies as temporary settlers, mainly as military personnel or on business. Others went to the colonies as immigrants. British people were by far the most numerous population to migrate to the colonies: 2.5 million settled in Canada; 1.5 million in Australia; 750,000 in New Zealand; 450,000 in the Union of South Africa; and 200,000 in India. French citizens also migrated in large numbers, mainly to the colonies in the north African Maghreb region: 1.3 million settled in Algeria; 200,000 in Morocco; 100,000 in Tunisia; while only 20,000 migrated to French Indochina. Dutch and German colonies saw relatively scarce European migration, since Dutch and German colonial expansion focused upon commercial goals rather than settlement. Portugal sent 150,000 settlers to Angola, 80,000 to Mozambique, and 20,000 to Goa. During the Spanish Empire, approximately 550,000 Spanish settlers migrated to Latin America.
United States colonies and protectorates:
The term neocolonialism has been used to refer to a variety of contexts since decolonization that took place after World War II. Generally it does not refer to a type of direct colonization, rather, colonialism by other means. Specifically, neocolonialism refers to the theory that former or existing economic relationships, such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Central American Free Trade Agreement, created by former colonial powers were or are used to maintain control of their former colonies and dependencies after the colonial independence movements of the post–World War II period.
The conquest of vast territories brings multitudes of diverse cultures under the central control of the imperial authorities. From the time of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, this fact has been addressed by empires adopting the concept of universalism, and applying it to their imperial policies towards their subjects far from the imperial capitol. The capitol, the metropole, was the source of ostensibly enlightened policies imposed throughout the distant colonies.
The empire that grew from Athenian conquest spurred the spread of Greek language, religion, science and philosophy throughout the colonies. The Athenians considered their own culture superior to all others. They referred to people speaking foreign languages as barbarians, dismissing foreign languages as inferior mutterings that sounded to Greek ears like "bar-bar".
Romans found efficiency in imposing a universalist policy towards their colonies in many matters. Roman law was imposed on Roman citizens, as well as colonial subjects, throughout the empire. Latin spread as the common language of government and trade, the lingua franca, throughout the Empire. Romans also imposed peace between their diverse foreign subjects, which they described in beneficial terms as the Pax Romana. The use of universal regulation by the Romans marks the emergence of a European concept of universalism and internationalism. Tolerance of other cultures and beliefs has always been secondary to the aims of empires, however. The Roman Empire was tolerant of diverse cultures and religious practises, so long as these did not threaten Roman authority. Napoleon's foreign minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, once remarked: "Empire is the art of putting men in their place".
Settlers acted as the link between the natives and the imperial hegemony, bridging the geographical, ideological and commercial gap between the colonisers and colonised. Advanced technology made possible the expansion of European states. With tools such as cartography, shipbuilding, navigation, mining and agricultural productivity colonisers had an upper hand. Their awareness of the Earth's surface and abundance of practical skills provided colonisers with a knowledge that, in turn, created power.
Painter and Jeffrey argue that geography as a discipline was not and is not an objective science, rather it is based on assumptions about the physical world. Whereas it may have given "The West" an advantage when it came to exploration, it also created zones of racial inferiority. Geographical beliefs such as environmental determinism, the view that some parts of the world are underdeveloped, legitimised colonialism and created notions of skewed evolution. These are now seen as elementary concepts.[clarification needed] Political geographers maintain that colonial behavior was reinforced by the physical mapping of the world, visually separating "them" and "us". Geographers are primarily focused on the spaces of colonialism and imperialism, more specifically, the material and symbolic appropriation of space enabling colonialism.
A colony is a part of an empire and so colonialism is closely related to imperialism. Assumptions are that colonialism and imperialism are interchangeable, however Robert J. C. Young suggests that imperialism is the concept while colonialism is the practice. Colonialism is based on an imperial outlook, thereby creating a consequential relationship. Through an empire, colonialism is established and capitalism is expanded, on the other hand a capitalist economy naturally enforces an empire. In the next section Marxists make a case for this mutually reinforcing relationship.
Marxism views colonialism as a form of capitalism, enforcing exploitation and social change. Marx thought that working within the global capitalist system, colonialism is closely associated with uneven development. It is an "instrument of wholesale destruction, dependency and systematic exploitation producing distorted economies, socio-psychological disorientation, massive poverty and neocolonial dependency." Colonies are constructed into modes of production. The search for raw materials and the current search for new investment opportunities is a result of inter-capitalist rivalry for capital accumulation. Lenin regarded colonialism as the root cause of imperialism, as imperialism was distinguished by monopoly capitalism via colonialism and as Lyal S. Sunga explains: "Vladimir Lenin advocated forcefully the principle of self-determination of peoples in his "Theses on the Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination" as an integral plank in the programme of socialist internationalism" and he quotes Lenin who contended that "The right of nations to self-determination implies exclusively the right to independence in the political sense, the right to free political separation from the oppressor nation. Specifically, this demand for political democracy implies complete freedom to agitate for secession and for a referendum on secession by the seceding nation." Non Russian marxists within the RSFSR and later the USSR, like Sultan Galiev and Vasyl Shakhrai, meanwhile, between 1918 and 1923 and then after 1929, considered the Soviet Regime a renewed version of the Russian imperialism and colonialism.
In his critique of colonialism in Africa, the Guyanese historian and political activist Walter Rodney states:
"Colonial Africa fell within that part of the international capitalist economy from which surplus was drawn to feed the metropolitan sector. As seen earlier, exploitation of land and labour is essential for human social advance, but only on the assumption that the product is made available within the area where the exploitation takes place.
Classical liberals generally opposed colonialism (as opposed to colonization) and imperialism, including Adam Smith, Frédéric Bastiat, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Henry Richard, Herbert Spencer, H. R. Fox Bourne, Edward Morel, Josephine Butler, W. J. Fox and William Ewart Gladstone.[clarification needed]
Adam Smith wrote in Wealth of Nations that Britain should liberate all of its colonies and also noted that it would be economically beneficial for British people in the average, although the merchants having mercantilist privileges would lose out.
The act of colonizing spread and synthesized social and political western ideas of a gender and racial hierarchy to colonized areas, as well as elicited the further development of ideas about the gender dichotomy and racial divisions in European society during the colonial era. Popular political practices of the time were to support colonialism rule by legitimizing European male authority and female and non European inferiority through studies of Craniology, Comparative Anatomy, and Phrenology. Biologists, naturalists, anthropologists, and ethnologists of the 1800s were focused on the study of colonized indigenous women, as in the case of Georges Cuvier's study of Sarah Baartman. Such cases embraced a natural superiority and inferiority relationship between the races based on European naturalists' observations; They gave rise to the perception that African women's anatomy, and especially genitalia, resembled those of mandrills, baboons, and monkeys, thus differentiating colonized Africans from what were viewed as the features of the evolutionarily superior, and thus rightfully authoritarian, European woman.
In addition to what would now be viewed as pseudo-scientific studies of race which supported new racially hierarchical and evolutionary ideology of the time, new science based ideology about gender was also emerging in reaction to the colonial era of European history. Female inferiority across all cultures was emerging as an idea based in craniology that lead scientists to argue human women's brain size, based on skull measurements, was minuscule and therefore less developed and less evolutionarily advanced compared to men. The influence that lead to such studies was the establishment of comparative anatomy of humans that developed in response to European scientists' delving into the question of biological racial difference.
Thus Non Europeans and women faced invasive study by colonial powers in the interest of scientific ideology and theory that encouraged the political institution of colonialism. Such studies of race and gender coincided with the era of colonialism and the introduction of foreign cultures, appearances, and gender roles into the line of vision of European scholars.
Post-colonialism (or post-colonial theory) can refer to a set of theories in philosophy and literature that grapple with the legacy of colonial rule. In this sense, postcolonial literature may be considered a branch of postmodern literature concerned with the political and cultural independence of peoples formerly subjugated in colonial empires. Many practitioners take Edward Saïd's book Orientalism (1978) as the theory's founding work (although French theorists such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon made similar claims decades before Said).
Saïd analysed the works of Balzac, Baudelaire and Lautréamont arguing that they helped to shape a societal fantasy of European racial superiority. Writers of post-colonial fiction interact with the traditional colonial discourse, but modify or subvert it; for instance by retelling a familiar story from the perspective of an oppressed minor character in the story. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's Can the Subaltern Speak? (1998) gave its name to Subaltern Studies.
In A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999), Spivak argued that major works of European metaphysics (such as those of Kant and Hegel) not only tend to exclude the subaltern from their discussions, but actively prevent non-Europeans from occupying positions as fully human subjects. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), famous for its explicit ethnocentrism, considers Western civilization as the most accomplished of all, while Kant also had some traces of racialism in his work.
The impacts of colonization are immense and pervasive. Various effects, both immediate and protracted, include the spread of virulent diseases, unequal social relations, exploitation, enslavement, medical advances, the creation of new institutions, abolitionism, improved infrastructure, and technological progress. Colonial practices also spur the spread of colonist languages, literature and cultural institutions, while endangering or obliterating those of native peoples. The native cultures of the colonized peoples can also have a powerful influence on the imperial country.
Economic expansion has accompanied imperial expansion since ancient times. Greek trade-networks spread throughout the Mediterranean region, while Roman trade expanded with the main goal of directing tribute from the colonized areas towards the Roman metropole. According to Strabo, by the time of emperor Augustus, up to 120 Roman ships would set sail every year from Myos Hormos in Roman Egypt to India. With the development of trade routes under the Ottoman Empire,
Gujari Hindus, Syrian Muslims, Jews, Armenians, Christians from south and central Europe operated trading routes that supplied Persian and Arab horses to the armies of all three empires, Mocha coffee to Delhi and Belgrade, Persian silk to India and Istanbul.
Aztec civilization developed into a large empire that, much like the Roman Empire, had the goal of exacting tribute from the conquered colonial areas. For the Aztecs, the most important tribute was the acquisition of sacrificial victims for their religious rituals.
On the other hand, European colonial empires sometimes attempted to channel, restrict and impede trade involving their colonies, funnelling activity through the metropole and taxing accordingly.
European nations entered their imperial projects with the goal of enriching the European metropole. Exploitation of non-Europeans and other Europeans to support imperial goals was acceptable to the colonizers. Two outgrowths of this imperial agenda were slavery and indentured servitude. In the 17th century, nearly two-thirds of English settlers came to North America as indentured servants.
African slavery had existed long before Europeans discovered it as an exploitable means of creating an inexpensive labour force for the colonies. Europeans brought transportation technology to the practise, bringing large numbers of African slaves to the Americas by sail. Spain and Portugal had brought African slaves to work at African colonies such as Cape Verde and the Azores, and then Latin America, by the 16th century. The British, French and Dutch joined in the slave trade in subsequent centuries. Ultimately, around 11 million Africans were taken to the Caribbean and North and South America as slaves by European colonizers.
|European empire||Colonial destination||Number of slaves imported|
|British Empire||British Caribbean||1,665,000|
|French Empire||French Caribbean||1,600,200|
|Spanish Empire||Latin America||1,552,100|
|Dutch Empire||Dutch Caribbean||500,000|
|British Empire||British North America||399,000|
Abolitionists in Europe and America protested the inhumane treatment of African slaves, which led to the elimination of the slave trade by the late 18th century. The labour shortage that resulted inspired European colonizers to develop a new source of labour, using a system of indentured servitude. Indentured servants consented to a contract with the European colonizers. Under their contract, the servant would work for an employer for a term of at least a year, while the employer agreed to pay for the servant's voyage to the colony, possibly pay for the return to the country of origin, and pay the employee a wage as well. The employee was "indentured" to the employer because they owed a debt back to the employer for their travel expense to the colony, which they were expected to pay through their wages. In practice, indentured servants were exploited through terrible working conditions and burdensome debts created by the employers, with whom the servants had no means of negotiating the debt once they arrived in the colony.
India and China were the largest source of indentured servants during the colonial era. Indentured servants from India travelled to British colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and also to French and Portuguese colonies, while Chinese servants travelled to British and Dutch colonies. Between 1830 and 1930, around 30 million indentured servants migrated from India, and 24 million returned to India. China sent more indentured servants to European colonies, and around the same proportion returned to China.
Following the Scramble for Africa, an early but secondary focus for most colonial regimes was the suppression of slavery and the slave trade. By the end of the colonial period they were mostly successful in this aim, though slavery is still very active in Africa.
Imperial expansion follows military conquest in most instances. Imperial armies therefore have a long history of military innovation in order to gain an advantage over the armies of the people they aim to conquer. Greeks developed the phalanx system, which enabled their military units to present themselves to their enemies as a wall, with foot soldiers using shields to cover one another during their advance on the battlefield. Under Philip II of Macedon, they were able to organize thousands of soldiers into a formidable battle force, bringing together carefully trained infantry and cavalry regiments. Alexander the Great exploited this military foundation further during his conquests.
The Spanish Empire held a major advantage over Mesoamerican warriors through the use of weapons made of stronger metal, predominantly iron, which was able to shatter the blades of axes used by the Aztec civilization and others. The European development of firearms using gunpowder cemented their military advantage over the peoples they sought to subjugate in the Americas and elsewhere.
The populations of some colonial territories, such as Canada, enjoyed relative peace and prosperity as part of a European power, at least among the majority; however, minority populations such as First Nations peoples and French-Canadians experienced marginalization and resented colonial practises. Francophone residents of Quebec, for example, were vocal in opposing conscription into the armed services to fight on behalf of Britain during World War I, resulting in the Conscription crisis of 1917. Other European colonies had much more pronounced conflict between European settlers and the local population. Rebellions broke out in the later decades of the imperial era, such as India's Sepoy Rebellion.
The territorial boundaries imposed by European colonizers, notably in central Africa and South Asia, defied the existing boundaries of native populations that had previously interacted little with one another. European colonizers disregarded native political and cultural animosities, imposing peace upon people under their military control. Native populations were often relocated at the will of the colonial administrators. Once independence from European control was achieved, civil war erupted in some former colonies, as native populations fought to capture territory for their own ethnic, cultural or political group. The Partition of India, a 1947 civil war that came in the aftermath of India's independence from Britain, became a conflict with 500,000 killed. Fighting erupted between Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities as they fought for territorial dominance. Muslims fought for an independent country to be partitioned where they would not be a religious minority, resulting in the creation of Pakistan.
In a reversal of the migration patterns experienced during the modern colonial era, post-independence era migration followed a route back towards the imperial country. In some cases, this was a movement of settlers of European origin returning to the land of their birth, or to an ancestral birthplace. 900,000 French colonists (known as the Pied-Noirs) resettled in France following Algeria's independence in 1962. A significant number of these migrants were also of Algerian descent. 800,000 people of Portuguese origin migrated to Portugal after the independence of former colonies in Africa between 1974 and 1979; 300,000 settlers of Dutch origin migrated to the Netherlands from the Dutch West Indies after Dutch military control of the colony ended.
After WWII 300,000 Dutchmen from the Dutch East Indies, of which the majority were people of Eurasian descent called Indo Europeans, repatriated to the Netherlands. A significant number later migrated to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Global travel and migration in general developed at an increasingly brisk pace throughout the era of European colonial expansion. Citizens of the former colonies of European countries may have a privileged status in some respects with regard to immigration rights when settling in the former European imperial nation. For example, rights to dual citizenship may be generous, or larger immigrant quotas may be extended to former colonies.
In some cases, the former European imperial nations continue to foster close political and economic ties with former colonies. The Commonwealth of Nations is an organization that promotes cooperation between and among Britain and its former colonies, the Commonwealth members. A similar organization exists for former colonies of France, the Francophonie; the Community of Portuguese Language Countries plays a similar role for former Portuguese colonies, and the Dutch Language Union is the equivalent for former colonies of the Netherlands.
Migration from former colonies has proven to be problematic for European countries, where the majority population may express hostility to ethnic minorities who have immigrated from former colonies. Cultural and religious conflict have often erupted in France in recent decades, between immigrants from the Maghreb countries of north Africa and the majority population of France. Nonetheless, immigration has changed the ethnic composition of France; by the 1980s, 25% of the total population of "inner Paris" and 14% of the metropolitan region were of foreign origin, mainly Algerian.
Encounters between explorers and populations in the rest of the world often introduced new diseases, which sometimes caused local epidemics of extraordinary virulence. For example, smallpox, measles, malaria, yellow fever, and others were unknown in pre-Columbian America.
Disease killed the entire native (Guanches) population of the Canary Islands in the 16th century. Half the native population of Hispaniola in 1518 was killed by smallpox. Smallpox also ravaged Mexico in the 1520s, killing 150,000 in Tenochtitlan alone, including the emperor, and Peru in the 1530s, aiding the European conquerors. Measles killed a further two million Mexican natives in the 17th century. In 1618–1619, smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans. Smallpox epidemics in 1780–1782 and 1837–1838 brought devastation and drastic depopulation among the Plains Indians. Some believe that the death of up to 95% of the Native American population of the New World was caused by Old World diseases. Over the centuries, the Europeans had developed high degrees of immunity to these diseases, while the indigenous peoples had no time to build such immunity.
Smallpox decimated the native population of Australia, killing around 50% of indigenous Australians in the early years of British colonisation. It also killed many New Zealand Māori. As late as 1848–49, as many as 40,000 out of 150,000 Hawaiians are estimated to have died of measles, whooping cough and influenza. Introduced diseases, notably smallpox, nearly wiped out the native population of Easter Island. In 1875, measles killed over 40,000 Fijians, approximately one-third of the population. The Ainu population decreased drastically in the 19th century, due in large part to infectious diseases brought by Japanese settlers pouring into Hokkaido.
Conversely, researchers concluded that syphilis was carried from the New World to Europe after Columbus's voyages. The findings suggested Europeans could have carried the nonvenereal tropical bacteria home, where the organisms may have mutated into a more deadly form in the different conditions of Europe. The disease was more frequently fatal than it is today; syphilis was a major killer in Europe during the Renaissance. The first cholera pandemic began in Bengal, then spread across India by 1820. Ten thousand British troops and countless Indians died during this pandemic. Between 1736 and 1834 only some 10% of East India Company's officers survived to take the final voyage home. Waldemar Haffkine, who mainly worked in India, who developed and used vaccines against cholera and bubonic plague in the 1890s, is considered the first microbiologist.
As early as 1803, the Spanish Crown organised a mission (the Balmis expedition) to transport the smallpox vaccine to the Spanish colonies, and establish mass vaccination programs there. By 1832, the federal government of the United States established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans. Under the direction of Mountstuart Elphinstone a program was launched to propagate smallpox vaccination in India. From the beginning of the 20th century onwards, the elimination or control of disease in tropical countries became a driving force for all colonial powers. The sleeping sickness epidemic in Africa was arrested due to mobile teams systematically screening millions of people at risk. In the 20th century, the world saw the biggest increase in its population in human history due to lessening of the mortality rate in many countries due to medical advances. The world population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to over 7 billion today.