Although there is no denying colonialism’s deep rooted, dark, and tumultuous past, as an avid lover of history, I’m immensely interested in its tangible legacy-the French style architecture on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam, and lodgings in Africa that still have high tea services.
The colonial period normally encompasses the late 15th to 20th centuries, but it was the 19th to 20th centuries that had the most “activity.” Between 1815 and 1914, historians estimate that ten million square miles and roughly 400 million people were added to the British Empire. The influence of the French colonial empire made French a widely spoken colonial language, and a majority of the world’s French speaking population lives in Africa. It’s estimated that there are over 100 million African people spread across 31 countries who speak French as either a first or second language. During the Scramble for Africa, the process of invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the New Imperialism period between 1881 and the start of World War I in 1914, 22 countries were “claimed” by France. Although its four colonies in Africa were taken during World War I and its aftermath, the remnants of Germany’s colonial past are still visible today. The woman on the Disney cruise who administered my massage was from Namibia and had blond hair and blue eyes. The colonies’ quest for independence on the African and Asian continents began in the 1930s and for some, continued up into the 1980s.
Unfortunately, in some countries preservation of colonial era buildings is not a priority of the local and national government; these buildings are either in a state of decay or being razed to make way for modernization, as countries strive to move on from their colonial past. While I strongly think it is wise for these countries to establish themselves as independent, modern nations, entirely free of their former colonial rulers, I can’t help but think that from a tourist perspective, it would benefit them from an economic standpoint if they preserved their colonial buildings and other landmarks. There would be tourists who would want to visit such sites, myself included.
Here is a list of places you can visit today to see remnants of those countries’ colonial pasts.
1.) French Quarter-Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi served as an administrative center for the French colony of Indochina, so French colonial architecture sprang up all around. It was these style buildings that prompted Hanoi to be dubbed the “Paris of Southeast Asia.” French colonial era buildings that can still be seen today include the Grand Opera House, the Presidential Palace, and the Hotel Metropole.
2.) Coronation Park-Delhi, India
Coronation Park served as the venue for the Delhi Durbar, a mass assembly that marked the coronation of a king and queen of the United Kingdom. It means “Court of Delhi” and was held three times, in 1877, 1903, and 1911. After India’s independence from Great Britain in 1947, the statues of former monarchs and governors were relocated to Coronation Park. Although the park suffered from neglect, in 2005 the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and the Government of Delhi resolved to restore it; however, the park is nowhere near completion of being restored.
3.) Darjeeling, India
During the British Raj (the period of British rule in India), Darjeeling was developed into a hill station, a town located at a higher elevation than the nearby plain or valley, for British residents looking to escape the oppressive summer heat. By the mid-1800s, commercial cultivation of tea began in the district and spurred a number of British planters to settle there. Today, colonial architecture characterizes many buildings there, including several mock Tudor residences, Gothic churches and the Planters’ Club, the home of the Darjeeling Planters Association that was officially formed in 1892. There are also many tourist accommodations here that date from colonial times.
Other cities with preserved colonial era buildings
-Cape Town, South Africa