This article deals with the geographical aspects of international trade and foreign investment at the turn of the 20th century. These issues of historical geography of the world economy are poorly explored in national science. It is shown that the widely held views of the critical importance of the colonies in foreign economic relations of the parent states are unsubstantiated and are not statistically sound. Neither in trade nor in capital investment did the colonies play the role that is often attributed to them. It is established that it is Europe rather than the colonial empires became the main structural element of the world economic system resulting from the industrial and transport-communication revolution. The world economic ties of those times are, in essence, the interrelations between European countries or with the participation of European countries. It is found that the colonial empires were economically open systems rather than closed systems, as is sometimes suggested. The characteristics of the internal structure of the world economic relations are identified. It is shown that raw materials and food products were dominant in the commodity composition of international trade, whereas the structure of foreign investment was dominated by capital investment in the infrastructure. As far as foreign direct investments are concerned, however (which constituted a relatively small part of capital exports), they were made mainly in the primary sector of the economy. Furthermore, the counter flows of capital, that is, mutual investments of industrially developed countries, were uncommon. It is pointed out that the statement that capital was exported solely to poor and backward countries is misleading. On the contrary, as is established, most foreign investments were made in developed countries, according to the standards of those times.Keywords: geography of world trade, international division of labor, geography of foreign investment, colonies, world economy.