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Difference Between Protectorate and Colony

Protectorate vs. Colony

A protectorate is defined as a state, however it is under the protection of another country in exchange for something else.  The state may have something to offer a larger country, in order for such an agreement to work.  A colony is defined as a territory which is governed by another country. There is no sovereignty for a colony, it is under the direct rule of another country. While the two may seem similar, there are significant differences which make a protectorate and colony different.

In a protectorate, any types of foreign relations are directed toward the country that is protecting the territory.  There is more of a sense of security for a small state knowing that they can rely on their protector as a defender.  If a colony has any foreign relations they are created and run by the country they are a part of.  There are times when a protectorate is created for reasons of peace and image.  A country may feel if it demonstrates an alliance with smaller states it demonstrates as a leader and a stronger country.  This is different from a nation which has various colonies.  Other countries can view a nation with several colonies as a threat.  A growing country can lead to a new superpower in the world, and that does not sit well with all.  For a large country having a protectorate or a colony, it is beneficial in many ways.

An example of a protectorate is the island of Barbados.  Today, Barbados is considered its own state, however it was once a protectorate of The United Kingdom.  Barbados was protected by the United Kingdom’s militia in case any other nation chose to invade.  In order to seal this agreement, Britain was able to take advantage of decreased sugar cane prices, as the island is a large producer of sugar.  A good example of a colony can be seen in the history of New England.  English settlers came to the Americas still under the king’s rule, however they were in a whole new territory.  The same rules and laws applied to the colonists as the British citizens who remained in England.

From the perspective of a country, a territory, and a mere outsider, protectorates and colonies are seen very differently.


  1. Both a protectorate and a colony are territories of larger countries.  A protectorate is its own state merely protected by a larger country.  A colony is a part of a larger country governed by that same country.
  2. A state which is a protectorate has the aid of a larger nation when conducting foreign relations.  For a colony, all foreign relations are created and dealt with by the mother country.
  3. Protectorates can be seen as an alliance. The more allies, the stronger the territory and country.  Colonies can be seen as a threat to other nations, as it is the spreading of one country.
  4. Barbados was a protectorate, it was governed by Britain.  New England was originally made up of colonies, ruled by Britain.

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  4. Going by this explanation, can pre-independence southern and northern Nigeria not be called colonies instead of

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