As we all know, with Christopher Columbus re-"discovering" America in 1492, the wondrous Age of Discovery began - and with it new dreams of conquest and wealth, that became realized in the way of imperialistic colonialism, during which Europe managed to subjugate most of the world due to their advanced military technology and immune system.

I have stumbled upon various threads discussing the effects it would have on the colonized, now I am asking about the colonizers.

The conditions are as follows:

  • Europeans started exploring the world in similar ways, but found the, in our history, colonised to be economically and militarily on more or less equal grounds.
  • The African and American states are prospering, and should europeans not decide to make enemies, they will make friends, allies and trading partners.
  • The "prospering states" do not span the whole continents.
  • Some colonies are therefore plausible.
  • Humans can be very cruel and greedy and that does not apply only to europeans.
  • Between some of the states/tribes/whatever on the continents, there will be infighting and strife for domination. Slavery is still a major trade between the victorious parties of each continent.


From what I understand colonies were important as:

  • the source of cheap labor workers from slavery (far away and removed from european moralists and intellectuals);
  • new land to build plantations on (cotton, cocoa, tobacco, etc.),
  • new metal and mineral deposits (gems, gold, silver, coal, etc.)

These things meant money and trade. Colonialism caused among other things unseen economical growth and rapid development of mercantilism - and capitalism. With its many colonies, Great Britain became a rich, influential superpower.

Should my conditions apply, the most straghtforward consequences could be as follows:

  • Europeans (British Empire as well), either need to actually pay for the trade goods, since they come from allied countries over the seas.
  • Or they would need to start a full blown conquest, either to
    • defeat the prospering countries,
    • defeat weaker countries/conquer territories and then defend them.
  • = This would require to raise an additional army, feed it, to fight against uprisings of nations/tribes armed with european technologies and seeking autonomy, and to fend off regional (neighbour) enemies and fellow european nations.

Basically, It would cost a lot.

Now, the problem is, that industrial revolution, starting in the 1760s, began in England and was built upon its, as wikipedia states, "legal and cultural foundations". Those, however, largely stem from Britains position as a capitalistic superpower that gained influence and stability as a colonial power in the first place.

Is it possible for the world to have a place prosperous and visionary-friendly enough with a small amount of important colonies and mostly non-exploitative trade between nations of similar standing, so that conditions for the industrial revolution are met, or was the colonisation so crucial to the industrial development of Europe that it is either really problematic, or not possible at all?

In-depth Questions

  • Would it still happen, but would end up being post-poned? For how long? Decades? Centuries?
  • Would it still happen in Britain? If not, then where would it be most likely?


  • This question is based on a setting with technology roughly corresponding to 1830s, but where (as you can guess), colonisation is not a thing - or at least not the scope we know.
  • The purpose of this question is to make sure, industrial setting, in fact, is plausible without colonisation and perhaps to sort of categorize the impacts a lack of colonialism has on the setting in other aspects I might not have considered (e.g. someone argumenting why it would be impropable).
  • If this happens to be too broad, assume that the changes are as small as possible (as big as they might be).
  • My knowledge of history, and therefore these formulations, are focused more on Africa and America, but answers considering Oceania, Australia and Asia (the colonized parts obviously) are more than welcome.

Thank you for your insights.


closed as too broad by hszmv, user535733, Renan, 011358 smell, jdunlop May 7 at 20:26

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Hi weirdflex, and welcome to Worldbuilding! This is a fascinating topic, but is currently a bit broad for our site, which is built around a one-question best-answer format. If you're able to narrow down your question to be more answerable, it'll be much less likely to be closed as "too-broad". Until then, I've voted to place your question on hold so you can make edits without worrying about unhelpful answers. I'd also recommend checking out our Sandbox for some feedback before re-posting. $\endgroup$ – Dubukay May 7 at 19:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE. When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture. Please also read our meta posts about high concept questions and open-ended questions. Questions like these are not a good fit for our site because SE is not a discussion forum. $\endgroup$ – JBH May 7 at 20:33
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I understand, thank you! $\endgroup$ – weirdflexbutiamconfusion May 7 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ Your edit to this question, whilst making it a different question doesn't make it (in my view) much less broad. Vote to leave closed (from review). $\endgroup$ – 011358 smell May 7 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ I know it probably still sounds complicated, but the core of this question really is just a reality check on whether the change is too big to be overcome and be plausible. Alternatively, looking at it from another perspective, I could reword it as: Would trade with the prospering nations be profitable enough to overcome the economical deficit so that industrial revolution could happen? - That is basically what I mean. Is that still not specific enough? $\endgroup$ – weirdflexbutiamconfusion May 7 at 21:47