I'm getting interested in these as a category.
Examples: the Japanese in Micronesia (1915-1945); the Germans in Africa (1880s -- WWI); the Italians in Libya (1912-1942).
Disqualified: various occupations during and around the World Wars that were never generally recognized. So, for instance, Japan was running Manchuria 1931-45, and Germany had Poland 1939-44, but those were extralegal occupations so I'm leaving them out.
Also disqualified: when one sort of colonial empire segues into another one under the same colonial master. So, the Belgian Free State (1884-1908) just turned into the Belgian Congo, and various African colonies went from being League of Nations Mandates to United Nations Trust Territories without much change.
So why are these interesting?
Well: they ended unexpectedly. So you get a sort of snapshot or cross-section of imperialist thinking at the moment of collapse. Also, there's a discontinuity, and those are always interesting.
For example: I used to live on Saipan, in the Northern Marianas Islands. The Japanese snitched these islands from Germany in 1914, then lost them to the Americans in WWII. But in between, they tried to develop them as sugar islands. Saipan, in particular, was covered with sugar cane. The Japanese brought in tens of thousands of peasants -- a mixture of Japanese, Okinawans and Koreans -- to work in the cane fields; they also built a sugar refinery, so that the island could produce sugar products as well as cane. By 1941, Saipan was a thriving settler colony, with a Japanese town of several thousand people, a railroad, schools and high schools, you name it. They were exporting thousands of tons of sugar, worth millions of dollars.
The native Chamorros and Carolinians... well, "benign neglect" isn't exactly right. Their religions and traditions were left alone, and they weren't enslaved or grossly exploited. But they were at the bottom of the social system, and were being pretty efficiently forced off their land. Japan's goal was to produce a settler colony, a little piece of Japan in the tropics; it was anticipated that, over generations, the natives would either assimilate or just quietly fade away.
And then, boom. By 1946 all the Japanese had been repatriated. The sugar factory and the railroad were ruins; neither has ever been rebuilt. (Nobody grows sugar on Saipan any more, except for a garden patch here and there for traditional medicine and candy.) The native Chamorros and Carolinians crept out of the ruins and gradually reoccupied their former lands. And there's very little left of the Japanese settler colony except a few buildings and some monuments.
Or, down in Tanzania. We stayed one night in LuShotho, up in the hills near the Kenyan border. LuShotho used to be called Kaiserstal, the Emperor's Valley. We stayed at a place that used to be a German settler's farmhouse.
(The Germans pushed several thousand white settlers into German East Africa. It would never have been South Africa, but given another generation or two, it would probably have had more whites than Kenya. And like Kenya, the settlers were clustered in the cooler highlands.)
The farmhouse was... impressive. Give Germans access to unlimited tropical hardwoods and cheap native labor, and whisper in their ear that they're building a new country for the glory of the Emperor? This thing was built to last.
(I could have stayed there for days. The birds and high-altitude tropical plants alone... Alas, we were passing through in a hurry: dinner, bed, breakfast and out.)
Or the German Boma in Arusha. This is a fortress-like building that the Germans built to be the administrative HQ for the province. Again, built solid as hell. It's now the site of a really lame and sad Museum of Natural History. (I mean, really sad. Half a dozen badly lite rooms with poorly labelled exhibits sort of standing about haphazardly. Yeah, it's a poor country, but so is Senegal and the History Museum on Goree Island is pretty good.) The Boma is actually more interesting than the museum; how it was built, and how the town was laid out around it... paved roads, plumbing, even an electric bell. Which was pretty good for northern Tanganyika c. 1910.
The Germans wanted their East African colony to produce substitutes for stuff they couldn't produce themselves, and had to import. In particular, they wanted to grow cotton. Germany's textile industry was exploding, yah? But they had to import all their cotton from Britain, British colonies, or the US. So they set out to grow it in German East Africa. This involved grabbing large tracts of fertile land for cotton plantations and turning large numbers of natives into, shall we say, not entirely voluntary laborers. Unsurprisingly, the natives didn't take this well, and the Germans had to suppress at least one major rebellion. But it was just a speed bump; consolidation continued, and cotton production soared... until 1914.
Afterwards it never came back. The British grew all the cotton they needed in India and Egypt, and they saw no need to antagonize the natives by forcing them to keep working on the plantations.
One oddity about Tanzania: white settlement almost stopped after 1918. Many German settlers left, but not many British moved in to take their place. Why go to a former German colony, when there was still plenty of land in South Africa, Rhodesia and Kenya? So -- unlike a lot of other African colonies -- the white presence was already in decline long before independence. Did that affect the country's post-independence history much? I don't even know enough to speculate.
Okay, this is more thinking out loud than a proper post. Well: I'm back in Germany, and writing my report.