European nations devised a variety of strategies to govern effectively their colonies. Historians describe four major ways in which the European nations ruled their colonies. The first approach was the use of economic companies that played governmental roles in their territories of operation. These companies performed administrative functions such as the establishment of systems for taxation and recruitment of workers. The economic companies born the costs for administration, and thus the European nations benefited from additional colonies, but at minimal costs (Gilbert & Reynolds, 2008). The second approach was the use of direct rule in administration. This model of governance functioned within a framework of centralized administration. Its approach did not encourage negotiations with indigenous rulers in the colonies of concern. In this regard, administrative entities operated from a central point, mostly in urban centers. Direct rule employed the “divide and rule” concept that promoted the implementation of policies intended to weaken indigenous leadership and systems of administration.
The third approach of governance by the European powers was the indirect rule, which operated within a framework that created a collaborative agreement between indigenous leadership and the colonial administration. The indirect rule perceived local tribes as groups under a single leader such as a chief. In this regard, by creating a cooperative model, European powers could easily impose their administrative policies through indigenous leaders (Sterling, 1963). The fourth strategy for governance was the settler rule. This approach witnessed the imposition of direct rule on European colonies by European settlers. Most immigrants from Europe had plans to settle in the colonies. In this regard, they lobbied for special privileges that gave them power in various political and economic aspects. These privileges promoted economic exploitation and various forms of political oppression on the indigenous population despite their large number. Furthermore, the power bestowed upon the European settler facilitated the availability of laborers to work on the vast tracts of land in which the European immigrants settled.