From the 1880s through to the First World War, European empires slowly imposed their control on the territories that in many cases existed merely on paper. This lecture asks how and why European powers embarked on this trajectory. Often, occupation became effective through a long series of colonial wars and conflicts.
Sometimes, as in the case of the German war against the Herero in South-west Africa in 1905-06, imperial violence reached genocidal proportions. In others, as in the British wars with the Maori in New Zealand, or the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1896, the colonizing power was unable to impose full control or was even repulsed by military defeat. Different varieties of colony emerged, ranging from those where European settlement overwhelmed indigenous societies, as in Australia, to those where a small number of European traders, missionaries and administrators attempted to rule a vastly greater number of indigenous inhabitants, as in India or the colonies of West Africa.