Modes of Colonization. Some Notes Are Preliminary.

The entrance is not on all the possible ways of colonization, but simply to compare it in very general terms the ways used by Europeans in the early modern (in particular in America, but not exclusively so)

A form (mode 1) is the ‘ban residents and we do with the land’, the so-called colony settlement. In the last instance, used by the British in the territories of temperate climate (i.e., relatively close to England), with original inhabitants relatively weak and definitely without state organized. In America, the French occupied it in Quebec.

Another alternative (mode 2) is the ‘subyuguemos to the inhabitants, and we became lords of the territory’, which is the normal case of the spaniards. Although that was her standard mode, in particular, was more intense in those regions in which there were populations organized in States with high levels of population. The latter is important because the way English requires that indigenous populations continue to exist: the idea is to exploit, not to eliminate them. Then, taking into account the larger population of indigenous peoples after 1492, could only work in populations that even after a strong declines were relatively numerous to sustain a ruling class of spaniards.

Finally we have the mode (mode 3) of ‘exploit the inhabitants through trade’ that although he was not the only method used by them was relatively common among Portuguese and Dutch. Either because the territories were impossible to conquer by the relative strength of the inhabitants (the typical situation in India in the XVI-XVII century for all) or by the commercial orientation of the overall economy coloniser (for example the Dutch in North America) or by the characteristics of the territory (Bay of the Hudson, or as the French operated on the Mississippi if I am not mistaken), it was estimated that the most lucrative form of relating to those territories was through trade.

One of the relevant issues is that only the first two were, at least in America, durable. And that’s, in part, to population dynamics. The colony of settlement generates the largest population the colony of subjugation, and both with much larger populations than the commercial. Which means, for example, that the commercial colonies were more easily taken in by other powers (New Netherlands to the English in 1665, for example) while that is not the case in the first two cases. We consider that, in fact, the only colony of settlement conquered, subsequently, was Quebec, and she still has a culture of speaking more than 2 centuries of its conquest by the United Kingdom.

Let’s look at some data and population estimates. In the decade of 1660-1670 the population in New England step of 32,600 to 52.200 (Heines and Steckel 2000: 150), while the population of New Netherlands to 1665, his conquest, is estimated to be around 7.000-8.000 (Jacobs 2005: 95, and this estimate is relatively high, and there were several that reckon on around half). In the case of the Spanish colonies, we can use the chilean example that is one of the least populated. In turn, the data for the territory of Santiago (which we can use as equivalent to New England or New Netherlands) we show that for 1644 between the Choapa and Maule around 3,000 neighbors, that is, Spanish (Ramón 2007: 79), but to this we must add the indigenous population and black population. Apparently, all Chile would be close to 22,500 indians entrusted and 2,000 black slaves (Zapater 1997: 492 using contemporary estimates of the Real Audience), but if you consider half of that population to the territory of Santiago to get there around 15,000 people to that territory. The population of the colonial power did is lower than in the case of New Netherlands (although let’s remember we are speaking of a poor neighborhood within the Spanish Empire and using a high estimate for New Holland), but the total population of the colony is clearly greater.

What is the significance of all this? That the european powers had a wide range of possibilities when they decided to dominate a territory. A range that depended upon factors associated with the dominated territory (the characteristics of its population) and of the dominator society (New Netherlands passed from the mode 3 to the 2 to the change of colonial power). And that these modes have significant consequences for the subsequent history. Here, we have dedicated ourselves to mention only the demographic -because they clearly influence later stories.

In fact, it is possible to show that these population trends affect the behavior of wages and economies (Arroyo Abad et al 2012 and Allen et al 2012), Although both have rather different conclusions about the situation of the economies of the Spanish colonies, it follows the general theme: That these strategies of colonization were relevant in producing historical situations different.


Allen, Robert, Murphy, Tommy, and Schneider, Eric (2012) The Colonial Origins of the Divergence in the Americas. The Journal of Economic History 72: 863-894

Arroyo Abad, Leticia, Davies, Elwyin and van Zanden, Jan Luiten (2012) Between Conquest and Independence: Real wages and demographic change in Spanish America, 1530-1820. Explorations in Economic History 49: 149-166

Haines, Michael, and Steckel, Richard (2000) A Population History of North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jacops, Jaap (2005) New Netherland: A Dutch Colony in Seventeenth Century America. Leiden: Brill.

de Ramón, Armando (2007) Santiago de Chile, History of an Urban Society. Santiago: Catalonia

Zapater, Horacio (1997) Huincas and Mapuches. History 30: 441-504

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