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What is a Protectorate?

Translated from Brockhaus Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon for the German People, 1841:  

„Protectorate is the office held by a protector, whose rights and duties are regulated by treaties [...] and laws, unless he is the natural protector of others, like the father of his children.“

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:   


A protectorate is, in international law, a political entity (a sovereign state or a less developed native polity, such as a tribal chiefstainship or feudal princely state) that formally agrees (voluntarily or under pressure) 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 favourable for the protectorate. The political interest of the protector there is often moral (a matter of image, prestige, ideology, internal popularity, dynastic, historical or ethno-cultural ties...), and/or countering a rival or enemy power, e.g. preventing the Ottoman empire from keeping or getting control of a strategical place. Even if this involves the very weak protectorate surrendering its external relations, this may constitute no real sacrifice, since they would not have been able to get similar use out of them without the muscle which only the protector can field for its interest.

Often the conditions are far less generous in areas of colonial 'protection'. Here the western powers were generally after real control, so eager to obtain terms that reduced the protectorate to a de facto condition rather similar to a colony, but using the pre-existing native state as an ideal agent of indirect rule; sometimes a protectorate was even established by and/or exerced by the other mean form of indirect rule: a chartered company, which truly becomes a de facto state 'in' (but geographically overseas) its European home state, allowed to conduct its own foreign policy and generally disposing of 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. A similar indication is the formal use of such phrasings as 'colony and protectorate' for an amalgamaton, convenient only for the coloniser/protector, of geographically proximous terrotories 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 viz. 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 European 'protectors' in Europe


· the German Empire (Second Reich) used the word Schutzgebiet, literally 'protectorate', for its true colonies as well.

Besides these colonial uses, within Europe the Nazi Third Reich established:

· Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (a nazi puppet regime in Czechia)
· Slovakia 1939-45, the German representative being officially a diplomat styled Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary.


· Saar, 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


· Monaco 20 November 1815 under amical Protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia

· 3 June 1917 Albanian independence from the Ottoman empire under an Italian protectorate declared by Italy (this is opposed by most Albanians).