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What is Annexation?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Annexation is an activity in which two things are joined together, usually with a subordinate or lesser thing being attached to a larger thing. In strict legal terms, annexation simply involves a consolidation or joining, but many people use the term specifically to discuss the annexation of territories by nations which feel that they have a claim on them. A number of nations expanded their political power through annexation historically, although the United Nations no longer recognizes annexation as a legitimate political tool.

In a legal sense, when something is annexed, it is appended or added to something else. For example, someone might annex a will by adding a codicil which changes the terms, or annex personal property by attaching it legally to a piece of real estate. Annexation in the legal community does not carry the same implications that others forms of annexation do.

Within a nation, incorporated entities can choose to annex neighboring land. This decision is usually made when a settled area wants to expand, or when it is already offering services to people outside its boundaries, and it wants to create a more formal arrangement. Usually, annexation is only allowed if the residents of the land being annexed vote to support it on a ballot, and annexation is sometimes opposed because people fear higher tax rates and other issues which may crop up when land is annexed by a larger neighboring city.

In the international community, annexation involves a nation laying claim to a territory and declaring that the territory is now part of the annexing nation. For example, the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 with the goal of expanding control in the Pacific. These types of annexations often take the form of a takeover, in which a larger and more powerful state exerts control over a smaller territory or nation, effectively forcing it to join. Some people refer to this activity as a grab for land or power, as it is usually done with the goal of benefiting the nation doing the annexing.

After the Second World War, the United Nations passed a resolution condemning annexing, and stating that future annexations of territory would not be recognized by the international community, thereby invalidating them. This was done in part as a reaction to the annexations utilized by Germany to gain control over continental Europe during the war. A handful of annexations have occurred since this period, usually in a legal gray area which makes it difficult to categorically determine that they should be classified as annexations.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By TreeMan — On May 12, 2012

I find these debates to be all interesting, but missing the fact that the word annexation is simply a term that can mean a variety of different things and encompass a lot of different mediums.

The term can be seen as both negative and positive and it only depends how it is used and what it is concerning to deem it a bad thing.

Say a county invades another in order to annex a nation, that is bad and refers to what the United Nations condemns. However, it could also mean that simply joining two lands together whether through a bill of sale or just to make it easier to determine jurisdiction.

No matter how the word is used its meaning all depends on what it is concerning and is not necessarily a bad thing. I am sure there are other positive instances of the term annexation, if anyone can mention a few.

By Izzy78 — On May 11, 2012

@ttians62 - I will say although this is the case in the large scale sense, in the small scale sense of annexation it is usually done at the local level to simply make things easier.

I know that when some houses are annexed, which are on the edge of town, it simply makes the zoning easier to deal with.

There are also instances in which areas are simply annexed because it was bought. Of course, in these instances these cannot be considered bad, because it was bought and sold and this can occur at the small level as well as the large level, like if islands were sold and annexed to another nation.

By titans62 — On May 10, 2012

@stl156 - That is true but the came thing can be said for a lot of other nations who did not want to be annexed and were simply invaded.

Most of the time annexation does not occur in the way you described and it is merely a term that is used during a hostile takeover.

Most of the time when annexation occurs it is done as part of a militaristic strategy in which they are simply invading another place for some type of resource or other similar reasons.

Because of this, annexation is usually seen as a bad thing and is something that should be condemned. There are some rare instances in which annexation can be a good thing, but all these instances are rare and far between.

By stl156 — On May 10, 2012

Although this article does state that the concept of annexation is frowned upon and basically a bad thing, there are plenty of instances throughout history in which annexation was a good thing for both parties and even wanted by those being annexed.

Take for example the Republic of Texas. The state of Texas was originally its own independent nation after the Mexican American War and they did not enter the United States until several years later. Up until the point that they were annexed the people of the Texas were wanting the United States to annex them because there was no possible way that the could sustain themselves as an independent nation.

There are also many other instances where there are cases such as this and this is why condemning the concept of annexation as a whole is something that is just too simple for a concept such as this.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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