British Empire—Australia

1770 to 1907
Voyage of Captain Cook to Galipolli

Era Summary       Characters       Timeline       Reading Assignments      

Era Summary—Australia

Australia and New Zealand—The British Settlement of Australia and New Zealand, proceeded relatively peacefully, since the indigenous residents of these countries were neither populous nor particularly civilized. A great deal of the growth of these colonies was fueled by the enormous population growth within the British realm during the 19th century, and also by the availability of inexpensive land. Very poor young men and women, with limited prospects in their homeland, could move to any of Britain's provinces and find plenty of opportunity. Aside from these similarities however, the history of the settlement of Australia and New Zealand proceeded quite differently.

Early Settlement of Australia—Australia and New Zealand were both claimed for Britain by Captain Cook on his first voyage to the region in 1770, but permanent settlement did not begin in Australia until 1788, several years after Britain lost possession of most of her American colonies. The initial settlement in New South Wales was a penal colony, and many of the first European inhabitants of Australia were criminals. These resulted in a very high degree of self-reliance among subsequent settlers, and a severe system of military justice because from the earliest times, Australia contained a unusually high outlaw population. Other colonies in Australia were founded in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. They were governed fairly independently because of the large distances between them. In 1850 a gold rush caused a fairly rapid increase in population, but for the most part the population grew slowly and steadily during the 19th century. There were few military actions against the native population for several reasons. First, they were highly susceptible to infection disease, and secondly, the continent was large enough, and European settlement slow enough that when they were forced to resettle, there were few overt land disputes. Because of the almost total lack of military feats in the history of Australian settlement, ANZAC day is honored on the anniversary of the day the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula during the Great War. The united provinces of Australia gained their independence from Great Britain in 1931.

Early Settlement of New Zealand—Although in many ways New Zealand's climate was more attractive that that of Australia, she was settled considerably later because of her more populous, and somewhat warlike natives. The earliest European settlers in New Zealand were in fact sailors, traders, and other adventurers who desired to live among the native Maoris without the benefits or oppressions of civilized society. After trying to avoid involvement in the region for some time, in 1830 Britain finally decided to claim New Zealand as a colony and peacefully negotiated a treaty with the major native tribes in the region. From that point on, British colonists began to arrive, especially on the Northern island, but it was not for several generations that the Europeans were populous enough to have serious land disputes with the natives. This led to a series of land wars which the Maori's, who were skilled guerilla warriors, occasionally seemed to enjoy.

Over the long term, of course, the Maori's lost, but their relationship with the British colonizers never soured to the degree of other conquered peoples. There was considerable inter-marriage between the two races and when New Zealand did become independent from Britain the Maoris and their mixed-race progeny were granted full rights of citizenship.


Character/Date Short Biography


Abel Tasman
Visited Formosa and Japan, discovered Tasmania and New Zealand
William Dampier
English explorer who circumnavigated the globe three times, and discovered Australia and other islands in the South Pacific.
Captain Cook
Discovered Australia and New Zealand. Helped establish colonies there.
George Bass
Naturalist and Surgeon, who with Flinders, explored Botany Bay and Van Diemen's Land.
Matthew Flinders
Naval Captain, circumnavigated Australia and explored inner regions.

Australian Heroes

Ernest Rutherford
Father of nuclear physics. Advocated the orbital theory of the atom.
Arthur Philip
First Governor of New South Wales penal colony in Australia. Led colony through various difficulties.
William Bligh
British naval Captain who served as an unpopular governor of Australia. Famous for Mutiny on the Bounty.
Ned Kelly
Bushranger of Irish heritage who became a folk hero among Irish Catholic Australians.
John McArthur
British officer who introduced sheep farming and made Australia a leading wool producing region.
Breaker Morant
Australian horseman, poet, soldier, and folk-hero who was executed by the British for misconduct during the Boer Wars.

New Zealand Heroes

Samuel Marsden
Early settler in Australia and missionary to the Maori's in New Zealand.
William Hobson
British Captain who served as the first governor of New Zealand and negotiated the Treaty of Waitangi with natives.
Edward Wakefield
Organized early settlements in Australia and New Zealand.
George Grey
Governor of South Australia, Cape Colony, and New Zealand.
Hongi Hika
Maori chief who purchased weapons from the British and led his tribe to domination during the Musket Wars.
Hone Heke
Maori chief who resisted British rule, and instigated the Flagstaff War.


AD YearEvent


1642 Abel Tasman, a Dutch sailor, discovers Tasmania, New Zealand and the Fiji islands.
1688 William Dampier explores western coast of Australia, circumnavigates globe.
1769 First voyage of Captain Cook — sails into Poverty Bay in New Zealand, charts coast of Australia.
1773 Third voyage of Captain Cook — returns to New Zealand, crewmen killed in skirmish with natives.

Settlement of Australia

1788 Arthur Philip establishes first settlement in Australia, a penal colony, north of Botany Bay
1798 Matthew Flinders explore coast of Australia, circumnavigate island of Tasmania.
1801 George Bass and Matthew Flinders first expedition around the coast of Australia.
1801 John McArthur develops Australia's sheep and wool producing trade.
1808 Rebellion occurs in Sydney when governor prohibits sale of Rum.
1824 Penal colony established near Brisbane. First settlement in Queensland.
1850 Edward Hargraves announces discovery of gold in Australia.
1851 'Black Thursday' brushfires destroy much of Victoria.
1854 Rebellion of gold-miners against government at the Eureka stockade.
1880 Notorious outlaw, Ned Kelly is hanged.
1895 First performance of Waltzing Matilda, Australian national anthem.
1900 Australia gains a constitution and independent parliament.
1902 Breaker Morant, Australian folk hero, executed for war crimes in South Africa.

Settlement of New Zealand

1780+ Whalers and sealers use ports off North Island, establish trade with natives.
1814 Samuel Marsden establishes a mission on north Island, introduces sheep, cattle, and grains.
1814 Hongi Hika, a Maori chieftain, visits England and Australia, obtains muskets, becomes a warloard.
1821 Musket Wars between armed Maori tribes, led by Hongi Hika, and unarmed tribes.
1832 James Busby appointed first British 'resident' but without resources to calm tribal wars.
1835 Maori raid of Chatham Island. All natives are killed or enslaved by Maoris.
1839 Edward Wakefield forms private association, the New Zealand company, to colonize the territory.
1840 William Hobson induces chieftains to sign Treaty of Waitangi, establishing British sovereignty.
1841 First British capital established at Auckland.
1845 Flagstaff War, led by Hone Heke, first major uprising against British, takes a year to subdue.
1845 George Grey becomes governor, serves as governor or in Parliament for next 34 years.
1846 Land war in the Hutt Valley near Wellington.
1852 Local parliament established.
1853 Maori chiefs attempt to unifiy under a king, prohibit sale of land to whites.
1860 Taranaki War breaks out over land disputes.
1865 Government moved to Wellington.
1868 Te Kooti rebellion, Maori seats established in Parliament
1870 Last British troops leave New Zealand, government and militia sufficent to keep order.
1888 New Guinea becomes a crown colony.

Recommended Reading—Australia

Book Title
Selected Chapters (# chapters)

Core Reading Assignments

Marshall - Our Empire Story   Part II—Australia to The Bushrangers (10)
Marshall - Our Empire Story   Part III—New Zealand to The Hau Haus and Te Kooti (13)

Supplemental Recommendations

Lang - The Story of Captain Cook    entire book
Synge - A Book of Discovery   Discoverers of Australia to Dampier Discovers a Straight (3)
Synge - A Book of Discovery   Flinders Names Australia to Sturt's Discoveries in Australia (2)
Synge - The Reign of Queen Victoria   Across the Seas to Australian Commonwealth (3)