The British Empire (& Europeans, Arabs etc.) colonised many countries but the colonial experience, advertised as a "westernizing the backward people for their own good" masked the oppression, bloodshed, racism & exploitation of people & resources on a large scale.

But I wonder how differently would things/events need to be carried out where the intent & outcomes of "colonialism" would have been positive from start to finish for all countries involved?

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    Hi. This question isn't really about history , "What if" type questions are off topic here. But I will say that there is no way whatsoever that colonialism could've been "done right". It didn't happen because of the curiosity of rugged, adventurous individuals. It happened because there was money to be made. And when there are fortunes to be made, ethics go out the window.
    – Spencer
    Jan 26, 2022 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


This question kind of reminds me of how decades ago I used to read my papers' weekly Miss Manners column. It seemed like once a month or so someone would write in asking "What is the polite way to X", where X is something inherently rude.

She usually had an impressively gentle way of informing them that the only polite path is to not X at all. Meanwhile I'm mentally calling them all kinds of nasty names, which I suppose is why she's Miss Manners, and I'm not. But dammit people, you gotta learn that some things are just inherently wrong, and there's no "right way" to do something wrong. You can't just big brain your way around morals.

The reason this reminds me of that of course, is that colonialism, as normally defined, cannot happen without taking someone else's stuff. Their land, their resources, their freedom, their lives sometimes. You've gotta take at least some of that, or its not colonialism.

There is no "benevolent" way to take someone's stuff from them. It can't be done.

  • The decision making around en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentinelese is not an answer but probably a useful data point. Jan 26, 2022 at 3:57
  • @GremlinWranger - Yup. The only way to win the game is not to play.
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 26, 2022 at 13:36
  • I don’t even think the way described in the famous SF story "Monument" would work.
    – Spencer
    Jan 26, 2022 at 17:53
  • Well, from a utilitarian POW colonialism could be positive. Imagine a small elite that oppresses a big majority - and then a colonial power ousts that elite and give the majority more freedom than before. I am sure this has happened.
    – d-b
    Jan 26, 2022 at 18:26
  • @T.E.D. Your definition of colonialism is far from the reality of 19th century European colonialism. This colonialism did not take land (people remained there with their activities, did not take freedom -in face they often got more-, took lives on specific situations, not systematically. Jan 26, 2022 at 19:08

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