Counter-exposition to the 1931 Colonial Exhibition in Paris.
Map of the 1894 Lyon fair
Overview of 1896 exhibition
Postcard from Brussels International
Postcard of the Palais d'expositions at Hanoi Exhibition
Postcard of the Annam Tower built for the exhibition.
Bird's eye view of the Franco-British exhibition
The Royal Agricultural Hall site of the rubber exhibition
Replica of Canada Parliament Building at Festival of Empire
Poster for the exhibition
A season ticket pass section showing logo
Overview of the colonial exhibition of Semarang.
The Palace of Industry building from British Empire Exhibition
"Le Cactus" at the 1931 French exhibition

A colonial exhibition was a type of international exhibition that was held to boost trade. During the 1880s and beyond, colonial exhibitions had the additional aim of bolstering popular support for the various colonial empires during the New Imperialism period, which included the scramble for Africa.

The first colonial exhibition, in Victoria, Australia, in 1866, was the progeny of 25 years of similar exhibitions, also held in Melbourne, in which other colonies within the Australian continent participated.

Perhaps the most notable colonial exhibition was the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, which lasted six months and sold 33 million tickets.[1] Paris's Colonial Exhibition opened on 6 May 1931 on 110 hectares (272 acres) of the Bois de Vincennes. The exhibition included dozens of temporary museums and façades representing the various colonies of the European nations, as well as several permanent buildings. Among these were the Palais de la Porte Dorée, designed by architect Albert Laprode, which then housed the Musée permanent des Colonies, and serves today as the Cité nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration.[1]

The French Communist Party held an anti-colonial counter-exhibition near the 1931 Colonial Exhibition, titled The Truth About the Colonies. The first section was dedicated to crimes during the colonial conquests, and quoted Albert Londres and André Gide's criticisms of forced labour. The second one contrasted the Soviet Union's "nationalities policy" with "imperialist colonialism".

Germany and Portugal also staged colonial exhibitions. Human zoos were featured in some of the exhibitions, such as in the Parisian 1931 exhibition.[2]

The Empire of Japan hosted colonial showcases in exhibitions within the Home Islands, but also held several full-scale expositions inside its colonies of Korea and Taiwan. These exhibitions did however have objectives comparable to that of their European counterparts, in that they highlighted economic achievements and social progress under Japanese colonial rule to Japanese and colonial subjects alike.

A British Empire flag distributed at the British Empire Exhibition.

Brussels was the venue for the last colonial exhibition: the Belgian Foire coloniale, held in 1948.

Colonial exhibitions

Exhibitions that may be described as colonial exhibitions include the following.

Name of exhibition Date Location Country Notes
Sydney International Exhibition 1879 Sydney  New South Wales [note 1]
Internationale Koloniale en Uitvoerhandel Tentoonstelling 1883 Amsterdam  Netherlands
Colonial and Indian Exhibition 1886 London  United Kingdom
Philippines Exposition 1887 Madrid Spain Spain
Exposition Universelle 1889 Paris  France
Exposition internationale et coloniale 1894 Lyon  France
Exposição Insular e Colonial Portuguesa 1894 Oporto Portugal Portugal
Great Industrial Exposition 1896 Berlin  Germany
Exposition nationale et coloniale 1896 Rouen  France
Brussels International 1897 Brussels  Belgium
Exposition internationale et coloniale 1898 Rochefort  France
Greater America Exposition 1899 Omaha  United States
Hanoi exhibition 1902 Hanoi  French Indochina
United States, Colonial and International Exposition[citation needed] 1902 New York City  United States
Marseille colonial exhibition [fr] 1906 Marseille  France
Exposition Coloniale 1907 Paris  France
Franco-British Exhibition 1908 London  United Kingdom [note 2][citation needed]
Festival of Empire 1911 London  United Kingdom
Exposition Universelle 1910 Brussels  Belgium
International exhibition of marine and maritime hygiene 1914 Genoa  Italy
Colonial Exhibition 1914 Semarang  Dutch East Indies [note 3]
Joseon Industrial Exhibition 1915 Gyeongseong (Seoul) Japan Japanese Korea
International Exhibition of Rubber and Other Tropical Products 1921 London  United Kingdom
Exposition nationale coloniale 1922 Marseille  France
British Empire Exhibition 1924 London  United Kingdom
Chosun Exhibition 1929 Gyeongseong (Seoul) Japan Japanese Korea
Exposition internationale coloniale, maritime et d'art flamand 1930 Antwerp[5]  Belgium
Paris Colonial Exposition 1931 Paris  France [note 4][citation needed]
Exposição Colonial Portuguesa 1934 Porto  Portugal
Taiwan Exposition 1935 Taihoku (Taipei) Japan Japanese Formosa
Empire Exhibition 1936 Johannesburg  South Africa [note 5]
Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne 1937 Paris  France
Empire Exhibition 1938 Glasgow  United Kingdom
Deutsche Kolonial Ausstellung 1939 Dresden  Nazi Germany
Exposição do Mundo Português 1940 Lisbon  Portugal [note 6][citation needed]
Foire coloniale 1948 Brussels  Belgium
Entrance to the Korea Exhibition, Seoul, 1929


  1. ^ Exhibitions in Australia started 25 years earlier, when the colonies of Victoria and New South Wales, inspired by the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, mounted their own exhibitions in 1854 in preparation for the Paris Exhibition of 1855 and in 1861 for the London Exhibition of 1862. These earlier exhibitions were known as Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibitions: "intercolonial" referring to the Australian colonies that became states of Australia after federation in 1901, not those in separate countries of the British Empire.[3]
  2. ^ The exhibition celebrated the Entente Cordiale signed in 1904 by the United Kingdom and France.
  3. ^ The exhibition was to "give a comprehensive picture of the Dutch Indies in their present prosperous condition".[4]
  4. ^ This six-month exhibition attempted to display the diverse cultures and immense resources of France's colonial possessions.
  5. ^ The Empire Exhibition held in Johannesburg from 15 September 1936 to 15 January 1937 was the first time the Empire Exhibition was held outside of Britain.[6] It was seen as an opportunity for the expansion of British trade.[7] It coincided with Johannesburg's Jubilee and was staged on a grand scale, with over twenty acres of industrial and commercial exhibits.[8] It was opened by the Governor-General.[9]
  6. ^ Held primarily as a celebration of the Estado Novo. One foreign nation, Brazil, participated in the exhibition.


  1. ^ a b Blevis, Laure; Lafout-Couturieur, Hélène; et al. (2008). 1931: Les Étrangers au temps de l'Exposition Coloniale. Paris: Gallimard.
  2. ^ "From human zoos to colonial apotheoses: the era of exhibiting the Other". Centro de Estudos Sociais. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  3. ^ Cowley, Des (1995). "Over the border: Victoria at interstate exhibitions". The La Trobe Journal. The State Library Victoria. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Calendar". The Independent. 13 July 1914. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  5. ^ Pelle, Findling, ed. (2008). "Appendix B:Fair Statistics". Encyclopedia of World's Fairs and Expositions. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 415. ISBN 978-0-7864-3416-9.
  6. ^ "Lexicon – Empire Exhibition". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Empire Exhibition at Johannesburg". Nature. 137 (3457): 182. 1936. Bibcode:1936Natur.137Q.182.. doi:10.1038/137182a0.
  8. ^ "Souvenir Catalogue, Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg (1936)". Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  9. ^ "British Pathe News: South Africa's Empire Exhibition". YouTube. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 30 January 2016.


See also