Australia History During Colonial Times
It is likely that the Portuguese visited coastal areas of Australia from their base in Timor as early as the first half of the 16th century, because on a map for the Crown Prince of France (»Dauphin map«) made around 1536 in Dieppe on the basis of Portuguese documents a large part of Australia (north, north-west and east coast, although imprecise) was drawn under the name “Java La Grande”. Check recent history of Australia on ehealthfacts.
After in the 17th century BC a. Dutch seafarers had explored the north and west coast of Australia and these were given the name “New Holland”, J. Cook reached the south-east coast of the continent from the Pacific Ocean in 1770, took possession of it for Great Britain and named the area “New South Wales”.
When, after the loss of the North American colonies (1783), the British government wanted to develop new overseas territories suitable for the deportation of convicts, their choice fell on the new property in Australia (1786). Here, first in Botany Bay, then in Port Jackson Bay, the first fleet landed in January 1788, bringing over 700 convicts into the country. Soon the Sydney settlement was established at this point. Further penal colonies first emerged along the coast, and from 1803 on Van Diemen’s land, later Tasmania.
From 1793, the settlement of free colonists was also permitted in order to forestall any French activities (first free settlers in Australia since 1790). However, the deportations continued (to New South Wales until 1840, to Western Australia until 1868). A total of around 151,000 convicts came to Eastern Australia and just under 10,000 to Western Australia. A representative selection of eleven prison camps was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.
With the crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813 and the subsequent development of the hinterland, a period of economic prosperity began.
Sheep farming, introduced by the free settlers, established the country’s wealth; In 1820 wool began to be exported to Great Britain. At around the same time, ranchers from Tasmania penetrated into what would later become Victoria (Melbourne was founded in 1835), others into southern Queensland. Western Australia was colonized in 1829 and South Australia in 1836.
Initially, a New South Wales Colonial Governor ruled the entire area until Van Diemen’s Land became an independent colony in 1825 (under the name Tasmania since 1853) and both were granted limited independence. The self-government was gradually expanded; Through the “Australian Colonies Government Act” of 1850, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia achieved almost full independence with a parliamentary constitution in the following years. Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859, the Northern Territory from South Australia in 1863; Western Australia did not receive its own government until 1890. With this development the administrative basis for the later Australian Confederation was created.
The indigenous people (Aborigines) were pushed away from their hunting grounds by the conquering Europeans into sterile areas, where some of them died of epidemics and hunger; in Tasmania they were completely wiped out in 1876. It was not until the 20th century that state aid and support measures began to help the Aborigines.
Until 1850, the development of the colonies was marked by the struggle between ranchers and farmers for cheap land and by the severe shortage of labor. Gold discoveries in 1851 (especially in Victoria, which became a colony in its own right that year, and in New South Wales) caused an economic boom and a very large influx of immigrants, mostly of urban origin (the population tripled in ten years), causing severe social tensions evoked. The Irish Peter Lalor (* 1827, † 1889) set up an establishment against the compulsion to acquire prospecting licenses in VictoriaLed uprising near Ballarat (“Eureka Stockade”), which was bloodily suppressed by the military and police on December 3, 1854. Discomfort in the colonies towards the motherland was paired with radical socialist ideas from the Old World; many immigrants had left Europe in the wake of the 1848 revolution. The firmly established power of the ruling cattle breeders with their large estates was called into question by the ever increasing population of the big cities. Attempts at land reform (land laws 1861 in New South Wales, 1862 in Victoria) were unsuccessful, although political successes for the radicals, especially in Victoria, were achieved. Other states followed Victoria’s example in developing transportation and communications, including social legislation. Inflation in the 70s and 80s of the 19th century was followed by a recession, the effects of which were compounded by persistent dry spells. Between 1888 and 1890 there were several major strikes in which the powerful trade unions, which had played an important role in the colonies since the mid-19th century, were defeated. These defeats led to the organization of the heavily unionized Australian Labor Party.