AskDefine | Define protectorate

Dictionary Definition

protectorate n : a state or territory partly controlled by (but not a possession of) a stronger state but autonomous in internal affairs; protectorates are established by treaty [syn: associated state]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Government by a protector; -- applied especially to the government of England by Oliver Cromwell.
  2. The authority assumed by a superior power over an inferior or a dependent one, whereby the former protects the latter from invasion and shares in the management of its affairs.



Extensive Definition

In international law a protectorate is a political entity (a sovereign state or less developed native polity, such as a tribal chiefstainship or feudal princely state) that formally agrees by treaty to enter into an unequal relationship with another, stronger state, called the protector, which engages to protect it (diplomatically or, if needed, militarily) against third parties, in exchange for which the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship.


In the case of so-called amical protection, mainly extended by the great powers to fellow Christian (generally European) states and tiny ones without significant intrinsic importance, the terms may often be very favorable for the protectorate. The political interest of the protector is often moral (a matter of image, prestige, ideology, internal popularity, dynastic, historical or ethno-cultural ties, etc.), and/or countering a rival or enemy power, e.g. preventing the Ottoman empire from maintaining or obtaining control of areas of strategic importance. Even if this involves the very weak protectorate surrendering control of its external relations, this may not constitute any real sacrifice, since they would not have been able to have similar use of them without the protector's strength.
Conditions are often much less generous for areas of colonial protection. Here the protectorate was often reduced to a de facto condition rather similar to a colony, but using the pre-existing native state as an agent of indirect rule. Sometimes a protectorate was even established by and/or exercised by the other form of indirect rule: a chartered company, which truly becomes a de facto state 'in' its European home state (but geographically overseas), allowed to be an independent country which has its own foreign policy and generally its own armed forces.
In fact, 'protectorates' were even declared which were not even duly entered into by pre-existent traditional states, or only by a party in its internal politics of dubious authority, while colonial 'protectors' frequently decided on their own to 'reshuffle' several protectorates into a new, artificial unit, a logic not quite respectful of the theoretical duty of a protector to help maintain the protectorate's status and integrity. The Berlin agreement of February 26, 1895 actually stipulated that the colonial powers could declare in Black Africa (the last region to be divided among them) protectorates that could be established by diplomatical notification, even without actual possession on the ground. A similar case is the formal use of such terms as 'colony' and 'protectorate' for an amalgamation, convenient only for the colonizer/protector, of geographically proximious territories over which it held (de facto) sway by protective or 'raw' colonial logic.
In practice, a protectorate often has direct foreign relations only with the protecting power, so other states must deal with it by approaching the protector. Similarly, the protectorate rarely takes military action on its own, but relies on the protector for its defence. This is distinct from annexation, in that the protector has no formal power to control the internal affairs of the protectorate.
Protectorates differ from League of Nations Mandates, and similar United Nations Trust Territories, which gave in practice similar authority to "responsible" Western powers or Japan in various areas of the non-European world over former colonial possessions (including protectorates) of the losers in World Wars I and II, since a protectorate formally enters into the protection itself, while the international mandates are imposed upon them by the 'world community-representing body'.

British & Commonwealth protectorates

Protection is a long-established term in English law for the duty of a sovereign to keep the subject safe from harm, including harm done by the sovereign; the subject has a corresponding duty of allegiance and obedience. Thus, in 1775, George III declared the thirteen colonies "out of his protection" for their disobedience — almost equivalent to a declaration of war.
When the British took over Cephallenia in 1809, they proclaimed that "We present ourselves to you, Inhabitants of Cephalonia, not as Invaders, with views of conquest, but as Allies who hold forth to you the advantages of British protection." When the British continued to occupy the Ionian Islands after the Napoleonic wars, they did not formally annex the islands, but described them as a protectorate. The islands were constituted by the Treaty of Paris in 1815 as the independent United States of the Ionian Islands under British protection.
Other British protectorates followed. In 1894 Prime Minister William Gladstone's government officially announced that Uganda was to become a British Protectorate, where Muslim and Christian strife had attracted international attention. The British administration installed carefully selected local kings under a program of indirect rule through the local oligarchy, creating a network of British-controlled civil service. Most British protectorates were overseen by a Commissioner or a High Commissioner, rather than a Governor.
British law made a distinction between a protectorate and protected state. Constitutionally the two were of similar status:
  • Britain controlled defence and external relations in both cases
  • however in protectorates Britain established an internal government, while in protected states a form of local internal self-government was already in existence.
Persons connected with former British protectorates, protected states, mandated or trust territories may still be British protected persons if they did not acquire the nationality of their country at independence.
Other cases include:


Middle East

South and South East Asia

Subsaharan Africa




The German Empire (Second Reich) used the word Schutzgebiet, literally 'protectorate', for its true colonies as well until they were lost during World War I. Cases involving indirect rule included;
In the Pacific: In Africa:
Besides these colonial uses, within Europe the Nazi Third Reich established:

French protectorates

  • Saar (1947-1956), not colonial or amical, but a former part of Germany that would by referendum return to it, in fact a re-edition of a former League of Nations mandate.
Most French protectorates were rather colonial:


North African and Indian Ocean Muslim cultures

Sub-saharan Africa



In Europe:
In the colonial empire:
  • Ethiopia: the 2 May 1889 Treaty of Wuchale, in the Italian language version, stated that Ethiopia was to become an Italian protectorate, while the Ethiopian Amharic language version merely stated that the Emperor could, if he so chose, go through Italy to conduct foreign affairs. When the differences in the versions came to light, Emperor Menelik II abrogated first the article in question (XVII), and later the whole treaty. The event culminated in the First Italo-Ethiopian War, in which Ethiopia was victorious and defended her sovereignty in 1896.
  • in Libya: on 15 October 1912 Italian protectorate declared over Cirenaica (Cyrenaica) until 17 May 1919.
  • in Somalia: 3 August 1889 Benadir Coast Italian Protectorate (in the north east; unoccupied until May 1893), until 16 March 1905 when it changed to the Italian Somalia (Italian Somaliland) colony.
    • Majerteen or Harti sultanate since 7 April 1889 under Italian protectorate (renewed 7 Apr 1895), then in 1927 incorporated into the Italian colony.
    • Sultanate of Hobyo (formerly the Hiraab Imamate until its conquest by a Majerteen warlord) since Dec 1888 under Italian protectorate (renewed 11 Apr 1895), then in Oct 1925 incorporated into the Italian colony (known as Obbia).




  • in Morocco 27 November 1912 - 7 April 1956 the so-called Spanish Zone (de jure joint protectorate but de facto most of the sultanate was under French protection).
  • in Mauritania: Adrar emirate since 1886 under Spanish protectorate till 9 January 1909, then a French protectorate.

Joint protectorates

compare condominium

Contemporary usage by the United States

Some agencies of the United States government, such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, still use the term protectorate to refer to insular areas of the United States such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as were the Philippines and (it can be argued via the Platt Amendment) Cuba at the end of Spanish colonial rule. However, the agency responsible for the administration of those areas, the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) within the United States Department of Interior exclusively uses the term insular area rather than protectorate.

Sources and references



See also

protectorate in Bulgarian: Протекторат
protectorate in Catalan: Protectorat
protectorate in Chuvash: Протекториат
protectorate in Czech: Protektorát
protectorate in Danish: Protektorat
protectorate in German: Protektorat
protectorate in Modern Greek (1453-): Προτεκτοράτο
protectorate in Spanish: Protectorado
protectorate in Esperanto: Protektorato
protectorate in French: Protectorat
protectorate in Galician: Protectorado
protectorate in Croatian: Protektorat
protectorate in Indonesian: Protektorat
protectorate in Italian: Protettorato
protectorate in Hebrew: מדינת חסות
protectorate in Swahili (macrolanguage): Nchi lindwa
protectorate in Macedonian: Протекторат
protectorate in Dutch: Protectoraat
protectorate in Japanese: 保護国
protectorate in Norwegian: Protektorat
protectorate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Protektorat
protectorate in Polish: Protektorat
protectorate in Portuguese: Protectorado
protectorate in Romanian: Protectorat
protectorate in Russian: Протекторат
protectorate in Albanian: Protektoriat
protectorate in Simple English: Protectorate
protectorate in Finnish: Protektoraatti
protectorate in Swedish: Protektorat
protectorate in Ukrainian: Протекторат
protectorate in Chinese: 保护国

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

aedileship, ally, archbishopric, archduchy, archdukedom, archiepiscopacy, archiepiscopate, aristocracy, bishopric, body politic, buffer state, captive nation, chairmanship, chancellery, chancellorate, chancellorship, chiefery, chiefry, chieftaincy, chieftainry, chieftainship, city-state, colony, commonweal, commonwealth, consulate, consulship, country, county, deanery, dictatorship, dictature, directorship, domain, dominion, duchy, dukedom, earldom, emirate, empery, empire, episcopacy, free city, governorship, grand duchy, headship, hegemony, hierarchy, kingdom, land, leadership, lordship, magistracy, magistrateship, magistrature, mandant, mandate, mandated territory, mandatee, mandatory, masterdom, mastership, mastery, mayoralty, mayorship, metropolitanate, metropolitanship, nation, nationality, nobility, papacy, pashadom, pashalic, patriarchate, patriarchy, polis, polity, pontificality, pontificate, popedom, popehood, popeship, possession, power, prefectship, prefecture, premiership, presidency, presidentship, prime-ministership, prime-ministry, princedom, princeship, principality, principate, proconsulate, proconsulship, protectorship, province, provostry, provostship, puppet government, puppet regime, realm, rectorate, rectorship, regency, regentship, republic, ruling class, satellite, seigniory, seneschalship, seneschalsy, seneschalty, settlement, sheikhdom, sheriffalty, sheriffcy, sheriffdom, shrievalty, sovereign nation, state, sultanate, superpower, supervisorship, suzerainship, suzerainty, territory, toparchia, toparchy, tribunate, vizierate, viziership
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