Colonial rule is the rule over a weaker nation or area by a larger nation or area. Colonial rule is not monolithic with regard to how it is implemented, as several different types of colonial rule exist.
Direct colonial rule deals with the direct political control of one area by another. Colonies in the ancient world generally fell under this category. Direct colonial rule requires the dissolution of the existing political and legal apparatus of the colonized state so that it can be replaced with a political and legal apparatus accountable to the colonizer.
Indirect colonial rule deals with political control of a colonized area through the political, cultural, and legal processes of the colonized state. This could be done in one of two ways. In the first, the political leaders of the colonized area may be deposed and replaced with leaders who support the colonizer, making the government a puppet of the colonizer. By using members of the colonized area and leaving in place most of the state structure, this is an indirect way to rule, though it is close to direct rule. The second method involves leaving the political and cultural structure intact but requiring the colonized country to acknowledge that it has been colonized and requiring that it support the colonizer. However, the local administration of the colonized state is left to the colonized people.
These types of colonial rule generally come along with either exploitation colonialism or settler colonialism. Exploitation colonialism is when the colonizing state seeks to strip resources and people from the colonized state in order to enrich itself. The colonization of the Congo is a very good example of exploitation colonialism. Because the focus is on resources, this form of colonialism usually results in few individuals from the colonizing state moving to the colonized state. Indirect rule can work well in this situation, as long as individuals working for the colonizing state are immune from punishment by the colonized state.
Settler colonialism involves the settlement of the colonized state by the colonizer. The settlement of North America by the British is a good example of this. The mass settlement of the colonized state will change the character of the colonized state and, because the settlers will want to maintain their prior power structures, this type of colonialism will generally require more direct rule.