Imperialism is one nation attempting to control another people or territory, typically because they want more land, sources of raw material for home industries, and export markets for finished manufactured goods. Imperialism is often criticized for its profiteering, although in some aspects, such as education, employment, and income, subject peoples have benefited.
Europeans used four patterns in their imperialism:
- Establish colonies, like the British colonies in America, whereby the European power had direct influence or control over the colonies.
- Establish protectorates, whereby the region has its own government and is an independent country, but is protected by a larger country. Puerto Rico and Guam today would be an example of that, as they are protected by the United States.
- An even less direct form of imperialism was “spheres of influence,” in which the European country had special trading privileges over the region. These trading interests were often recognized and protected by treaty with other imperialist powers and guarded with military force.
- Finally, there was “economic imperialism,” whereby the outside influence was exerted not by a government but by a private business over a region.
Imperialism grew in a period known as a period of "new" imperialism, which emerged in the 1800s, going on into the 1900s. This was in part fueled by international competition. This would also lead to economic protectionism.
Because trade is the basis of imperialism, commercial activity inevitably leads to legal challenges. The imperialist power often imposed its own system of judicial administration to settle claims and legal disputes.