Distinguish between the twin concept of Imperialism and Colonialism and identify the three distinct ages of British colonial in India. (250W/15M)

Mentor’s Comment:

This is a very basic question having two parts, 1st one is clearly asking the meaning of both the concept i.e. Imperialism and Colonialism. Mentioning the meaning will clarify the motives of British rule in India. However, both the term evolved in modified context in practical (cite examples if possible).

Further, explain the three distinct stages of British colonialism with their respective features. The three stages were: Mercantilism (1757-1813), Laissez Faire (1813-60), and Finance Imperialism (1860-1947). The respective features should mention the British conduct as well as consequences.

Conclude with your own view mentioning Britishers agenda of plundering India since centuries.

Model Answer:


  • The twin concepts of imperialism and colonialism have their respective meaning and identities, though they have a close relationship because of which they are quite often used interchangeably.
  • The word imperialism has its roots from the earliest times in history. In the modern period as in the earlier times it represents the driving force for expansion. But this modern version of imperialism is much more dangerous and harmful than the earlier versions, because the modern imperialism is taking place in the capitalist context with its central theme of profit making.
  • Almost all the capitalist countries of the modern period came to adopt colonialism to serve their ambitions and needs.
  • Hence colonialism like imperialism is essentially a modern phenomenon. Infact it is a mechanism of exploitation, evolved and adopted by the capitalist countries to subjugate and exploit the human as well as the material resources of all the weaker countries.
  • The British colonialism in India underwent three different stages as per the requirement of the three periods of capitalism. Each stage of colonialism has its distinct features, though all the stages have the most important common feature of exploitation.

First stage of Imperialism: Mercantilism

  • The first stage of Colonialism (1757-1813) is known as the stage of Mercantilism. It was marked by certain distinct features such as monopoly over trade, direct capture of power, open loot and plunder etc.
  • During this period the British collected revenue from the people and used it to do more of their business by procuring Indian handicrafts at unfair prices and making huge profits. They did not attempt any major changes in the Indian conditions, because they were not required for this type of exploitation.

Second stage of Imperialism: Laissez Faire

  • The second stage from 1813-1860 is called the stage of free trade or Laissez Faire. But this so called free trade was actually one way free trade for the British and came to be used to serve the needs of Industrialists of England.
  • For the Indians this policy proved to be very harmful because of the open discrimination. Under the guise or excuse of modernization the British tried to transform India not only economically but also in all other aspects, for eg: the Indian economy was changed from a supplier of handicraft good into not only a supplier of raw materials for English factories but also a purchaser of English manufactured goods.
  • Further, the non-economic transformation was also carried out through the politico administrative socio-religious and cultural reforms to make exploitation more systematic.

Third stage of Imperialism: Finance Imperialism

  • In the third stage 1860-1947, known as the stage of finance imperialism, the liberal and modernizing policies were given up in favour of conservative and reactionary policies.
  • Further they also began the process of bringing back to India a small part of the capital that they had been draining away from India. This reverse flow, though nominal was necessitated by the rapidly changing conditions in both England and India.
  • By the mid-19th Century, England reached a saturation point for capital investment. Moreover, English workers began demanding higher wages and better conditions.
  • India on the other hand by this time reached a point of complete exhortion because of the constant draining process over the past hundred years.
  • Finally English also realized the advantages of investing in India because of easy access to abundant raw materials, cheap labours and even expanding market.
  • However, the English were no more interested in the earlier reformist agenda because of the important lessons they came to learn in the 1857 revolt.


  • In all the stages of imperialism, the basic motive of English was to plunder the resources of India. Though in the process they established some of the facilities, but these were primarily to server their own needs.
  • This planned plundered led irreparably destruction to India’s economy, society by the Britishers which India is still trying to mitigate.
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5 years ago

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Pritam Kumar
5 years ago
Reply to  Imgroot

Hello Imgroot…KIndly mention your ID while uploading answer…..
-You have exceeded the word limit…
-Introduction seems to be too big….the entire first page is describing about imperialism and colonialism only….The first two para is sufficient….
-Too much elaboration of the concept under various sub-headings…More subheadings demands more points and that should be complete in themselves….means exceeding the word limit….
-Too many subheadings left individual points incomplete….one-liner points are not sufficient…they need more explanation and completeness in idea….
Though your approach is good….need to improve in presentation….
Refer our model answer for better clarity….
Keep writing…will improve for sure….
Marks awarded: 4/15

5 years ago

CDTEST20618comment image comment image

Pritam Kumar
5 years ago
Reply to  Noah

Hello Noah…
-Introduction is okay….
-Good points under mercantilism..
-Under laissez faire…the true meaning have not been brought….and the points are incomplete….
-Finance imperialism …under third stage…more clarity needed…
-conclusion could have been more better…bring your own view….
Overall its an average approach…presentation could have been more better with some specificity…
Keep writing…will improve for sure….
Marks awarded: 4/15

5 years ago
Reply to  Pritam Kumar

Hello sir, Sure I will follow your model answer.
Sir I read the basic books for preparing for the question, and this is all the clarity i get out of it. Does this mean I should expand my sources ?

Pritam Kumar
5 years ago
Reply to  Noah

Hi Noah, You have good idea over the topic…but clarity in presentation is what needed…expanding your reading base will help for sure…but practice of writing will help even more…Presentation is what you have to show to others and it should appear very clear and complete…should not obstruct the reader…answer with good flow always aspires for good marks….Don’t worry practice makes perfect…though you have improved a bit from your earlier answers….keep writing…

prafull sharma
5 years ago


comment image comment image comment image

Pritam Kumar
5 years ago
Reply to  prafull sharma

Hello Prafull…
-Introduction is okay…though more clear ideas could have been brought in imperialism…
-Your points are okay under three different stages…however more clarity can be brought…ideas under imperialism and laissez faire seems quite similar…imperialism is like expansionist policy, they wanted to expand their hold more in terms of trade…Laissez faire is like free trade agreement….more monopoly for Britain….etc…However, points are good…a bit clarity needed…
-Third page…they developed good transportation infrastructure….
Overall good approach…nice attempt….keep it up….
Keep writing…
Marks awarded: 6/15


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