OWID presents work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the original data source. This entry can be cited as:

Max Roser (2016) – ‘Colonialism’. Published online at Retrieved from: [Online Resource]


# Empirical View

# 200 years of colonial history

Above we have shown all of today’s countries that were part of a colonial empire in purple. This map now shows which other country was the colonial power that ruled over another country. Press the ‘Play’ at the bottom to see the change over time.

The borders shown throughout this visualisation are today’s borders. It would be preferable to show the historical borders and the changes over time; the current solution is a limitation of our technical framework that cannot (yet) show border changes.

# The end of colonialism

This visualisation presents the above data on the colonial powers in a time perspective. For each country that became independent over the last 2 centuries you see the former colonial or imperial power and the year of independence.


# Share of World Population Living in Colonized Countries

This visualization shows estimates of the number of people governed by different political regimes in dark purple. The chart also shows for each point in time under which type of political regime the remaining world population lived.
Throughout the 19th century around one third of the world population lived in countries that were colonized by imperial powers. This changed completely over the second half of the 20th centuries when the former colonies became independent.

By clicking on ‘Absolute’, the following graph shows the number of people living in different regimes over the last two centuries.


# Colonialism in Africa

This map shows Africa in 1912 when most parts of the continent were under colonial rule.

Colonial Africa in 19121


# Measurement, Data Quality & Definitions

In this entry we rely on the data presented by Wimmer and Min (2006) – see below for the reference. A major issue with the categorization of countries as colonies is that sometimes it only be done in retrospect – after the fact that the country became independent. While some countries were politically and officially referred to as colonies it is more difficult for countries that were not explicitly referred to as such.

# Data Sources

# Wimmer and Min (2006)
  • Data:This is a richer research paper that among other aspects includes a global dataset on countries that later became independent including their colonial power.
  • Geographical coverage:Global
  • Time span:1816 to 2001
  • Available at:Wimmer and Min (2006) – “From empire to nation-state: Explaining war in the modern world, 1816-2001”, American Sociological Review 71(6):867-897, 2006.