V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > F. The Pacific Region, c. 800–1914 > 3. Australia, 1788–1914
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1792–93)
3. Australia, 1788–1914
The 19th century in Australia was characterized by European settlement and political and economic development in European terms. British settlement saw the steady dispossession of some 200 Aboriginal groups: by 1914 only a few desert people remained in control of their country. Between 1788 and 1836, the British government or government-assisted expeditions settled all the sites to become state capitals at federation in 1901, in the east with convicts, in Western and South Australia with free settlers. Despite severe depressions in the 1840s and 1890s, white expansion was confident and prosperous. Stimulated by exports, chiefly gold and wool, by 1901 white Australians enjoyed the world's highest wage levels and living standards and were proclaiming an egalitarian society and an outpost of white civilization in the Pacific.  1
The later 19th century saw many patterns emerge in Australia similar to those in western Europe and the United States, such as the development of a strong working-class movement. Gender distinctions, including insistence on the domestic responsibilities of respectable women and condemnation of those who seemed to deviate from the respectability model, also followed trends similar to those in Europe. The Australian economy developed industrial centers for the national market along with the potent commercial export economy in agriculture and mining.  2
The Dutch, who discovered and explored the western and parts of the northern and southern coasts of Australia (1613–42), called the land New Holland. Capt. James Cook, who discovered and explored the east coast during his first voyage (1768–71), called that part New South Wales. In 1786 the British government decided to use a site Cook had named in New South Wales, Botany Bay, to transport convicts who crowded the British prisons after it became impossible to send them to America. The plan was to set up a convict colony that would support itself, although probably strategic considerations also influenced the choice of site.  3
1788, Jan. 26
Capt. Arthur Philip arrived at Port Jackson (Sydney), with the FIRST CONVICT TRANSPORTS and convoy, 11 ships with 717 convicts, of whom about 520 were men. In the following month 15 convicts and escorts were sent to organize another settlement on Norfolk Island (till 1814). Philip remained governor until 1792, during the most critical period of the colony and under difficult conditions: scarcity of food; uncertainty of supplies; laziness, incompetence, and quarrelsomeness of many convicts; prevalence of vice of every kind. The colony was protected by the New South Wales Corps, raised in England and itself an unimpressive and insubordinate body. The governor enjoyed absolute power and alone formulated policy. The convicts were supplied from government stores, but on expiration of their terms the more deserving were given 30 to 50 acres of land. Time-expired soldiers were given grants of 80 to 100 acres. The officers were more richly endowed, and some of them, like John Macarthur, soon became wealthy and influential.  4
Francis Grose and then William Paterson acted as vice governors. As members of the New South Wales Corps, they provided richly for their comrades. The officers were given the service of convicts and were allowed to establish a monopoly of cargoes brought to the settlement. Importation of rum was permitted, and rum soon became currency, much to the detriment of the settlement.  5
1793, Jan. 16
Arrival of the first free settlers (11 in all), who received free passage, tools, convict service, and land grants.  6
John Hunter, governor. A mild, well-intentioned administrator, he was soon at loggerheads with the officers of the corps, through whose influence at home he was ultimately recalled.  7
1797, May 16
The first merino sheep were imported, leading eventually to the creation of the Australian wool industry.  8
Philip King, governor. His main ambition was to break the power of the officers, wherefore he forbade their trading and prohibited the importation of spirits. Neither policy proved much of a success, and so King, like his predecessor, was in constant conflict with the officers, of whom Macarthur was the leader.  9
Settlement of Tasmania, carried through by the governor for fear that the French might seize it. Settlements were established near present-day Hobart and near Launceston. In 1810–14 the convicts on Norfolk Island were transferred to Tasmania. From the outset the settlers had much trouble with Aborigines and bushrangers (escaped convicts turned bandits and freebooters).  10
Insurrection of the Irish convicts, who had been sent in large numbers after the suppression of the revolution in Ireland in 1798. The rising was put down with ruthless vigor.  11
William Bligh, governor. He was appointed in the hope that, as a well-known disciplinarian, he would be able to end the domination of the officer clique and stop the disastrous liquor traffic. But his drastic methods and fiery temperament resulted merely in rebellion.  12
1808, Jan. 26
Rum Rebellion. The officers, outraged by the arrest of Macarthur, induced the commander, Maj. George Johnston, to arrest Bligh as unfit for office and to hold him captive until the arrival of a new governor (1809). Though the home government condemned this action, it removed Bligh.  13
COL. LACHLAN MACQUARIE, governor. His appointment marked the end of rule by the naval commanders. Macquarie took his Highland regiment to Australia and obliged the members of the New South Wales Corps to enlist in the regular force or return home, which about one-half of them did. The new governor devoted himself to the systematic buildup of Sydney, road construction, establishment of orphanages, and unrelenting war on the vice prevalent throughout the colony. Civil courts were established (1814) and a bank opened (1817). In 1816 the home government removed all restrictions on free emigration to Australia, thus preparing the way for a change in the character of the colony. But by 1810 there were already 3,000 free settlers, endowed with large blocks of land. These freemen objected violently to Macquarie's efforts to secure social equality for the emancipists (pardoned convicts or those who had served their time) and to discourage free immigration. As a result, Macquarie, like earlier governors, was engaged in constant struggle, though on a different basis.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.