Five Reasons for Establishing a Colony

In looking through my notes from previous story and game design ideas I came across one about the reasons why colonies might be set up. This was primarily for a set of scenarios for science fiction games set in Jim Wallman’s Universe that a group of us having been playing around the Full Moon each month since 1996.  That said, they are based on actual historical reasons why people left the UK and other European countries to live elsewhere (although not always on an uncertain and dangerous frontier).

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1. Religious/Ascetic Freedom

This covers people leaving to avoid discrimination as well as those that might want to live in a place where the temptations and ‘polluitng influences’ of modern life are not present. Examples of this include Amish and similar sects that avoid advanced technology (although quite why they’d get in a spaceship I’m not sure). Features of this sort of colony may include:

  • lack of high-tech industry (unless necessary to sustain the colony – even them imports would be more likely);
  • Colonists will be complete family groups, from birth to death;
  • no luxury housing or flashy entertainment (forget the five star hotel complex or New Vegas);
  • primarily farming, fishing and hunting;
  • minimal mining & raw materials processing (mainly for construction and export);
  • very tight group, outsiders would be obvious and shunned if not co-religionists. There may be restricted areas only for the faithful if there are frequent visits by groups not sharing similar beliefs;
  • no significant police/security apparatus, discipline would be enforced by social norms and religious leaders;
  • Outside support may be a necessary requirement to maintain the colony;
  • Only co-religionists would be accepted for settlement.

2. Mining Colony

In a place where surveys have shown significant concentrations of valuable minerals then there may be an attempt to settle on a commercial basis. This would be the equivalent of the oil rig workers in remote parts of Earth, or perhaps similar to some of the mid-19th century Californian or Australian pioneers looking for gold. Features of this sort of colony could include;

  • everyone on the colony is employed by, or contracted to, a specific company or consortium;
  • Colonists are likely to be single adults without dependents and of working age;
  • heavily geared around mineral extraction and perhaps also processing ores into metal;
  • they could be focussed on producing stuff for export, and also on individuals returning home again when they’ve completed their tour, or struck it rich;
  • minimal manufacturing, agriculture or any construction not required for the mining and export operations;
  • limited off-world support, if not profitable within a short time period the colony will be closed down again and all colonists repatriated;
  • small security capability, mainly geared around dealing with drunk & bored miners on an off-duty binge (i.e. a security team rather than a police force, discipline is company and offenders are likely to have pay docked or be sent home as sanctions).

3. Farming/Ranching

This one is perhaps more an outcome of a collection of other motivations, but perhaps also from people that can’t get the space to have their own farm in the home country, and instead choose to emigrate in the hope of getting their own land. Certainly this seems to have been a common enough motivation for some of the 18th & early 19th century settlers in North America. Features of this sort of colony may include:

  • lots of agriculture, and strong exports of food and other agricultural products (especially luxury products);
  • Colonists will be heavily weighted to adults of working age, but will also include family groups, although perhaps few elderly in the early stages;
  • lots of small settlements, spaced reasonably far apart, perhaps 10-20kms from each other with cultivated land between them;
  • limited mining and heavy industry, and what is there will be geared to supporting the agricultural industry;
  • well developed chemical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as food and materials processing to turn produce into saleable goods that are worth more as exports;
  • Neglible police/security (think more one man sherrif/constable alongside his farming/other duties with backup from the posse if required).

4. A Better Life[TM]

Isn’t this really the motivation for everyone that decides to get up from where they are and go somewhere else? The typical example here is probably the current migrations of people to other countries. This sort of thing is less likely to directly establish a colony, but is probably a pretty common second wave that could make the difference between a colony bumping along at subsistence level and really making it. Features of a colony with a high proportion of better lifers might include:

  • mature long established colony (perhaps at least 5-10 years old);
  • lots of recent arrivals, with a broad population mix (including babies and children, but not likely to have many elderly unless the colony has been around for more than 50 years);
  • an above average economy with relatively high living standards (luxury housing, entertainment complexes, wide range of consumer goods and agricultural produce);
  • a work hard, play hard culture (immigrants tend to be harder working, and they have a determination to succeed – regardless of what you might have read in the Daily Fail);
  • high productivity leading to sustainable living at better than subsistence level;
  • likely use of robots, automation and other high tech industries within a broad economic base;
  • Mature police and justice system, as a consequence of maturity of the colony with a sustained population growth.

Political/Doctrinal Dissidents

There will be loads of different political systems and doctrinal variations that will lead to people choosing to leave. Possibly some of these may co-exist on the same continent/planet as fallings out happen and it is too expensive to relocate somewhere radically different. Others may be new colonies that are settled from a homeland. Historical examples of this could include the Jacobites that moved to Canada in the 18th Century, or perhaps some of the dissidents from Eastern Europe that made their home in London in the nineteenth. There may also be examples of small towns in North America settled this way too. Anyway some features of these colonies may include:

  • some oddly extreme governance models;
  • mostly adults of working age, perhaps towards the younger end of this (I’ve noticed that people tend to soften in their political activism with age). Total population is likely to be relatively modest, and may be kept that way by frequent splits;
  • unless the political/doctrinal belief prohibits it, there will be a lot of automation and robots in use to run the economy (after all there isn’t time for a good political argument if you need to work very hard all day to make ends meet);
  • the economy is likely to be based on a few things and be relatively spartan (from necessity rather than for doctrinal reasons);
  • strong police/security environment. This may not be immediately obvious, but there is a close relationship between extremism and strict enforcement of thought typical of police states.
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About Author:

James has a keen interest in military history, backed with experience as a TA reservist and a 17th century re-enactor. He has designed and run several face to face social games and is the editor of MilMud, the journal of the CLWG game design group. He is currently working on a book on the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.

2 thoughts on “Five Reasons for Establishing a Colony

  1. Yes. Gulags would be, although I see these as a subset of 5. Some states could go to the trouble of putting infrastructure down to guard the prisoners. Alternatively you give them basic survival stuff and dump them on the planet with no means of getting off. You’d probably want to prevent other colonisation attempts there.

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