A protectorate, in the context of international relations, is a state that is under protection by another state for defence against aggression and other violations of law. It is a dependent territory that enjoys autonomy over most of its internal affairs, while still recognizing the suzerainty of a more powerful sovereign state without being a possession. In exchange, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations depending on the terms of their arrangement. Usually protectorates are established de jure by a treaty. Under certain conditions—as with Egypt under British rule (1882–1914)—a state can also be labelled as a de facto protectorate or a veiled protectorate.
A protectorate is different from a colony as it has local rulers, is not directly possessed, and rarely experiences colonization by the suzerain state. A state that is under the protection of another state while retaining its "international personality" is called a "protected state", not a protectorate.[a]
Protectorates are one of the oldest features of international relations, dating back to the Roman Empire. Civitates foederatae were cities that were subordinate to Rome for their foreign relations. In the Middle Ages, Andorra was a protectorate of France and Spain. Modern protectorate concepts were devised in the nineteenth century.
In practice, a protectorate often has direct foreign relations only with the protector state, and transfers the management of all its more important international affairs to the latter. 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 their successors, United Nations Trust Territories, whose administration is supervised, in varying degrees, by the international community. A protectorate formally enters into the protection through a bilateral agreement with the protector, while international mandates are stewarded by the world community-representing body, with or without a de facto administering power.
A protected state has a form of protection where it continues to retain an "international personality" and enjoys an agreed amount of independence in conducting its foreign policy.
For political and pragmatic reasons, the protection relationship is not usually advertised, but described with euphemisms such as "an independent state with special treaty relations" with the protecting state. A protected state appears on world maps just as any other independent state.[a]
International administration of a state can also be regarded as an internationalized form of protection, where the protector is an international organisation rather than a state.
Multiple regions—such as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, the Colony and Protectorate of Lagos, and similar—were subjects of colonial protection. Conditions of protection are generally much less generous for areas of colonial protection. The protectorate was often reduced to a de facto condition similar to a colony, but with the pre-existing native state continuing as the agent of indirect rule. Occasionally, a protectorate was established by another form of indirect rule: a chartered company, which becomes a de facto state in its European home state (but geographically overseas), allowed to be an independent country with its own foreign policy and generally its own armed forces.
In fact, protectorates were often declared despite no agreement being duly entered into by the state supposedly being protected, or only agreed to by a party of dubious authority in those states. Colonial protectors frequently decided to reshuffle several protectorates into a new, artificial unit without consulting the protectorates, without being mindful of the theoretical duty of a protector to help maintain a protectorate's status and integrity. The Berlin agreement of February 26, 1885, allowed European colonial powers to establish protectorates in Black Africa (the last region to be divided among them) by diplomatic notification, even without actual possession on the ground. This aspect of history is referred to as the Scramble for Africa. A similar case is the formal use of such terms as colony and protectorate for an amalgamation—convenient only for the colonizer or protector—of adjacent territories, over which it held (de facto) sway by protective or "raw" colonial power.
In amical protection—as of United States of the Ionian Islands by Britain—the terms are often very favourable for the protectorate. The political interest of the protector is frequently moral (a matter of accepted moral obligation, prestige, ideology, internal popularity, or dynastic, historical, or ethnocultural ties). Also, the protector's interest is in countering a rival or enemy power—such as preventing the rival from obtaining or maintaining control of areas of strategic importance. This may involve a very weak protectorate surrendering control of its external relations but may not constitute any real sacrifice, as the protectorate may not have been able to have a similar use of them without the protector's strength.
Amical protection was frequently extended by the great powers to other Christian (generally European) states, and to states of no significant importance.[ambiguous] After 1815, non-Christian states (such as the Chinese Qing dynasty) also provided amical protection of other, much weaker states.
In modern times, a form of amical protection can be seen as an important or defining feature of microstates. According to the definition proposed by Dumienski (2014): "microstates are modern protected states, i.e. sovereign states that have been able to unilaterally depute certain attributes of sovereignty to larger powers in exchange for benign protection of their political and economic viability against their geographic or demographic constraints".
"Protection" was the formal legal structure under which French colonial forces expanded in Africa between the 1830s and 1900. Almost every pre-existing state that was later part of French West Africa was placed under protectorate status at some point, although direct rule gradually replaced protectorate agreements. Formal ruling structures, or fictive recreations of them, were largely retained—as with the low-level authority figures in the French Cercles—with leaders appointed and removed by French officials.
Senegal: 4 February 1850 First of several French protectorate treaties with local rulers
Comoros 21 April 1886 French protectorate (Anjouan) until 25 July 1912 when annexed.
Present Djibouti was originally, since 24 June 1884, the Territory of Obock and Protectorate of Tadjoura (Territoires Français d'Obock, Tadjoura, Dankils et Somalis), a French protectorate recognized by Britain on 9 February 1888, renamed on 20 May 1896 as French Somaliland (Côte Française des Somalis).
Mauritania on 12 May 1903 French protectorate; within Mauritanian several traditional states:
Adrar emirate since 9 January 1909 French protectorate (before Spanish)
The Taganit confederation's emirate (founded by Idaw `Ish dynasty), since 1905 under French protectorate.
Saar Protectorate (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 colonial.
The German Empire used the word Schutzgebiet, literally protectorate, for all of its colonial possessions until they were lost during World War I, regardless of the actual level of government control. Cases involving indirect rule included:
Ethiopia : 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, EmperorMenelik 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.
Libya: on 15 October 1912 Italian protectorate declared over Cirenaica (Cyrenaica) until 17 May 1919.
Benadir Coast in Somalia: 3 August 1889 Italian protectorate (in the northeast; unoccupied until May 1893), until 16 March 1905 when it changed to Italian Somaliland.
Majeerteen Sultanate since 7 April 1889 under Italian protectorate (renewed 7 April 1895), then in 1927 incorporated into the Italian colony.
Sultanate of Hobyo since December 1888 under Italian protectorate (renewed 11 April 1895), then in October 1925 incorporated into the Italian colony (known as Obbia).
^Willigen, Peacebuilding and International Administration (2013), p. 16: "First, protected states are entities which still have substantial authority in their internal affairs, retain some control over their foreign policy, and establish their relation to the protecting state on a treaty or another legal instrument. Protected states still have qualifications of statehood."
^Meyer, William Stevenson (1908). "Ferozepur district". The Imperial Gazetteer of India. Vol. XII. p. 90. But the British Government, established at Delhi since 1803, interevened with an offer of protection to all the CIS-SUTLEJ STATES; and Dhanna Singh gladly availed himself of the promised aid, being one of the first chieftains to accept British protection and control.
^See the classic account on this in Robert Delavignette. Freedom and Authority in French West Africa. London: Oxford University Press, (1950). The more recent standard studies on French expansion include: Robert Aldrich. Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion. Palgrave MacMillan (1996) ISBN0-312-16000-3. Alice L. Conklin. A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire in France and West Africa 1895–1930. Stanford: Stanford University Press (1998), ISBN978-0-8047-2999-4. Patrick Manning. Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1880–1995. Cambridge University Press (1998) ISBN0-521-64255-8. Jean Suret-Canale. Afrique Noire: l'Ere Coloniale (Editions Sociales, Paris, 1971); Eng. translation, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 1900 1945. (New York, 1971).
^C. W. Newbury. Aspects of French Policy in the Pacific, 1853–1906. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 1958), pp. 45–56
^Gonschor, Lorenz Rudolf (August 2008). Law as a Tool of Oppression and Liberation: Institutional Histories and Perspectives on Political Independence in Hawaiʻi, Tahiti Nui/French Polynesia and Rapa Nui (Thesis). Honolulu: University of Hawaii at Manoa. pp. 56–59. hdl:10125/20375.