The European states established three fundamental forms of domination in the conquered territories:
- Colonies. They were territories subject to the sovereignty of the colonizing power and administered by it. The formula assumed the loss of sovereignty of the colonized country. An example was the Belgian Congo.
- Protectorates. The colonial power controlled the foreign policy and wealth of the colonized country, while the native authorities dealt with domestic policy. This was the case of the United Kingdom in Egypt and of France in Morocco.
- Concessions. They were territories that belonged to an independent country, but in which the colonizing powers obtained commercial advantages. This happened in China, where the penetration of Western products ruined local merchants and sparked several rebellions.
The British Empire was the largest of the time. Its colonies were spread all over the world, but the most important was India. To secure the route to India, the British seized control of the Suez Canal and Egypt, and to protect it against the Russian and French advance they conquered territories in Asia. The United Kingdom also owned Canada and much of Oceania.
In Africa, the United Kingdom advanced north from its Cape colony in the south of the continent, attempting to link with Egypt through a continuous corridor. This led to the confrontation with the French at Fachoda.
The French Empire was second in importance. In Africa, French expansion began with the conquest of Algeria and Tunisia and the creation of a protectorate in Morocco. Later, it obtained important territories in the center and the west of the continent. Germany and Italy joined the imperialist expansion late. Both countries, like Belgium, which took over the Congo, got some colonies in Africa.
Colonial expansion produced friction and conflict between the powers. To try to solve them, the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) met, in which the main powers divided up almost the entire African continent.