Number of European overseas colonies by region

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About this data

Number of European overseas colonies by region
Total number of overseas colonies per year colonized in each region by an European colonial power, between Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Colonies are defined in terms of contemporary nation states: along current independent countries and their borders.
Bastian Becker (2023) – with major processing by Our World in Data
Last updated
September 18, 2023
Next expected update
September 2024
Date range

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

The Colonial Dates Dataset (COLDAT) aggregates information on the reach and duration of European colonial empires from renowned secondary sources. By aggregating secondary sources, rather than collecting from primary sources, the new dataset reflects the accumulated knowledge in the discipline and relieves researchers from making hard to justify choices between different historical datasets. The dataset only considers the colonial status of countries that are independent today. It also includes overseas colonies only.

Retrieved on
September 22, 2023
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
Becker, Bastian (2019), Introducing COLDAT: The Colonial Dates Dataset, SOCIUM/SFB1342 Working Paper Series, 02/2019. url:

How we process data at Our World in Data

All data and visualizations on Our World in Data rely on data sourced from one or several original data providers. Preparing this original data involves several processing steps. Depending on the data, this can include standardizing country names and world region definitions, converting units, calculating derived indicators such as per capita measures, as well as adding or adapting metadata such as the name or the description given to an indicator.

At the link below you can find a detailed description of the structure of our data pipeline, including links to all the code used to prepare data across Our World in Data.

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Notes on our processing step for this indicator

This is is an aggregation of the number of countries each European colonial power colonized each year, by OWID geographic region or World Bank income groups.

We include Europe as a region because we conventionally classify Cyprus as a European country. The Colonial Dates Dataset data meanwhile considers Cyprus a European overseas colony.

Years are defined from last date aggregations available in the Colonial Dates Dataset. This means that when sources differ, years of colonization are defined from the last date between them. This is different from mean date aggregations (also available), which averages the dates of colonization across the original sources.

Years have been expanded to show the full range of years in the dataset, from 1462 to 2022. The original dataset only includes the years where a country was colonized.

Reuse this work

  • All data produced by third-party providers and made available by Our World in Data are subject to the license terms from the original providers. Our work would not be possible without the data providers we rely on, so we ask you to always cite them appropriately (see below). This is crucial to allow data providers to continue doing their work, enhancing, maintaining and updating valuable data.
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How to cite this page

To cite this page overall, including any descriptions, FAQs or explanations of the data authored by Our World in Data, please use the following citation:

“Data Page: Number of European overseas colonies by region”, part of the following publication: Bastian Herre, Pablo Arriagada and Max Roser (2023) - “State Capacity”. Data adapted from Bastian Becker. Retrieved from [online resource]
How to cite this data

In-line citationIf you have limited space (e.g. in data visualizations), you can use this abbreviated in-line citation:

Bastian Becker (2023) – with major processing by Our World in Data

Full citation

Bastian Becker (2023) – with major processing by Our World in Data. “Number of European overseas colonies by region” [dataset]. Bastian Becker, “Colonial Dates Dataset (COLDAT) 3.0” [original data]. Retrieved June 18, 2024 from