Where can I find information about colonialism?

Image: The sailing ship Maori. Between 1850 and 1870 by [Unknown] from Alexander Turnball Library.

Entry last updated: 25/11/21


The world has a long history of colonialism. Colonialism is when one country takes political control over the land and people of another country, usually through conquest. Countries might colonise other areas to benefit economically from the resources or people who live there, or to acquire more land for themselves by forcing the native people off their land and populating it with settlers.

EPIC resources

EPIC is a collection of reliable resources covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this. To access EPIC, you may need a password from your school.

Britannica School

This is an online version of Encyclopedia Britannica and covers many history topics.

  • Choose Secondary as your level.
  • Enter the keyword 'colonialism' into the search bar.
  • Select a topic such as Western colonialism.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg colonialism. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

World History in Context

World History in context offers you information about 5,000 years of world history, from ancient times right up to modern history.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Global Issues in Context

Global Issues in Context covers a wide range of current international issues.

To browse for a topic:

  • Go to Browse Issues along the top of the page for an alphabetical list of all of the issues covered.
  • Have a look at Decolonization to find out what happens when a country is no longer a colony.

To search the website:

  • Enter the keyword 'colonialism' into the search bar.
  • Results are grouped by content type.
  • Under Reference find Colonialism.
Tips: Remember that websites from America will spell things a bit differently, for example 'decolonization' with the 'z' instead of the 's'.

General websites

Have a look through these websites to find information about colonialism.

National Geographic

National Geographic is well-known for its illustrated magazine and its website includes full-text articles on a variety of topics.

  • Find the search function at the top of the page.
  • Enter the keyword 'colonialism.'
  • Select the article What is colonialism? for an introduction on the history of colonialism and some significant people, such as Christopher Columbus.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are. We like National Geographic because they are a reputable organisation.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a free to use site filled with information and educational videos on a range of topics in science, math, history, computers and more.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.


HowStuffWorks is a good website for finding out how all sorts of things work, including colonialism.

  • Enter 'colonialism' in the search box.
  • Choose the article How Colonialism Works.
  • Select Next Page to move through the article.
Tips: Some websites have advertisements (or ads) which ask us to buy something or tell us to ‘click here’. It’s best to ignore these ads and focus on the information we’re looking for.

New Zealand websites

New Zealand became a British colony when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. Have a look through these websites to find out more.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Search for the keywords New Zealand Company.
  • Select the article New Zealand Company exploration to discover their role in colonising New Zealand.
  • Search for 'colonisation' to find out the impact of colonisation on different areas of life.


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

To find a good summary of the period of history that covers the beginning of colonialism in New Zealand:

Topic Explorer (National Library)

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats eg images, video, audio, websites, articles, primary sources, etc.

Tips: We like sites like these because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


Have a look for these books, or talk to your school or local librarian for more recommendations.

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