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Travel Guide 2   >   Australia   >   History

   
 

Australian History


The first humans are believed to have arrived in Australia over 40,000 years ago. These people arrived via land-bridges and/or sea crossings from Southeast Asia, and became the indigenous people known as "aborigines". An additional and distinct group of early settlers, ethnically Melanesian, settled in the Torres Strait Islands (the Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea) and the far North of Queensland.

Replica of James Cook's ship, HMB Endeavour, in Cooktown Harbour, 1988 Europeans first began to reach the area at the aroud the beginning of the 17th century. The first undisputed sighting of the Australian mainland was by the Dutch sea captain, William Janszoon in 1606. The Dutch are known to have chartered the western and northern shorelines of the continent during the 17th century, but made no attempt at settlement of what they called at the time "New Holland". In 1770, British navigator, James Cook mapped parts of the East coast of Australia: the region today known as New South Wales. Cook claimed the area for Great Britain.

The first British colony was established in New South Wales on January 26th, a day that is now remembered as "Australia Day". The British formerly claimed the western portions of Australia in 1859, and during the 19th century a whole series of separate British colonies were established around the continent. Much of this British colonization was based upon the transportation of convicts to penal colonies, and it was only in 1848 that the transportation of convicts to New South Wales stopped.

The arrival of Europeans had a drastic effect on the indigenous aboriginal population. This fell dramaticly from a high of 350,000 due to the infectious diseases, forced resettlements, and other factors. Indeed, although the issues remain highly controversial and disputed, some historians have characterized the events of the period as genocide.

In 1850s, the European population increased further thanks to a gold rush, and between 1855 and 1890, each of the six British colonies was separately granted responsible government - while the the colonies were autonomous in their internal affairs, they Britain retained control of foreign affairs and defense. In 1901, the six colonies were united in a federation known as the Commonwealth of Australia.

Australia participated in both World War I and World War II as part of the British Empire. To many Australians the events of the world wars, especially the Gallipoli campaign in World War I, and the Kokoda Track Campaign in World War II, were important milestones in Australia's path to independent nationhood.

Legally, Australia first moved towards independence from Britain with the Statue of Westminister in 1931 (although Australia did not ratify it until 1942, but then back dated its effect to 1939), which granted effective independence in most matters. Australia however did retain some constitutional ties with Britain for another 40 years, these only finally be severed with the passing of the Australia Act in 1986. It should be noted that the British Queen Elizabeth II is also Queen of Australia, and a 1999 national referendum rejected becoming a republic.

Here are some books about the history of Australia:


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Books about Australian History


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Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia

By David Hunt

Black Inc.
Paperback (286 pages)

Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia
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Girt. No word could better capture the essence of Australia ...

In this hilarious history, David Hunt reveals the truth of Australia's past, from megafauna to Macquarie - the cock-ups and curiosities, the forgotten eccentrics and Eureka moments that have made us who we are.

Girt introduces forgotten heroes like Mary McLoghlin, transported for the crime of "felony of sock", and Trim the cat, who beat a French monkey to become the first animal to circumnavigate Australia.

It recounts the misfortunes of the escaped Irish convicts who set out to walk from Sydney to China, guided only by a hand-drawn paper compass, and explains the role of the coconut in Australia's only military coup.

Our nation's beginnings are steeped in the strange, the ridiculous and the frankly bizarre. Girt proudly reclaims these stories for all of us.

Not to read it would be un-Australian.

About the author: David Hunt is an unusually tall and handsome man who likes writing his own biographical notes for all the books he has written (one). He has worked as an historical consultant and comedy writer for television, and also has a proper job.

"A sneaky, sometimes shocking peek under the dirty rug of Australian history."
John Birmingham

"Hilarious and insightful -- Hunt has found the deep wells of humour in Australia's history."
Chris Taylor, The Chaser

The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding

By Robert Hughes

Vintage Books
Released: 1988-02-12
Paperback (628 pages)

The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia s Founding
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In this bestselling account of the colonization of Australia, Robert Hughes explores how the convict transportation system created the country we know today.

Digging deep into the dark history of England's infamous efforts to move 160,000 men and women thousands of miles to the other side of the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Hughes has crafted a groundbreaking, definitive account of the settling of Australia.

Tracing the European presence in Australia from early explorations through the rise and fall of the penal colonies, and featuring 16 pages of illustrations and 3 maps, The Fatal Shore brings to life the incredible true history of a country we thought we knew.

Australians: A Short History

By Thomas Keneally

Allen & Unwin
Hardcover (992 pages)

Australians: A Short History
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Thomas Keneally's widely acclaimed three volume history of the Australian people from origins to Vietnam gave us a robust, vibrant and page-turning narrative that brought to life the vast range of characters who have formed the Australian national story. Here these volumes are brought together for a story that encompasses original Australians and European occupation of their land, the convict era, pastoralists, bushrangers and gold seekers, working men, pioneering women, the rifts wrought by World War I, the rise of hard-nosed radicals from the Left and the Right and the social upheavals of the Great Crash and World War II. Then the Menzies era, the nation changing period of post-war migration and Australia's engagement with Asia. This is a truly masterly history of Australia and its people by an author of outstanding literary skill whose own humanity permeates every page.

Only in Australia: The History, Politics, and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism

Oxford University Press
Hardcover (320 pages)

Only in Australia: The History, Politics, and Economics of Australian Exceptionalism
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This edited volume is about the Australian difference and how Australia's economic and social policy has diverged from the approach of other countries. Australia seems to be following a 'special path' of its own that it laid down more than a century ago. Australia's distinctive bent is manifested in a tightly regulated labour market; a heavy reliance on means testing and income taxation; a geographical centralization of political power combined with its dispersal amongst autonomous authorities, and electoral singularities such as compulsory and preferential voting.

In seeking to explain this Australian Exceptionalism, the book covers a diverse range of issues: the strength and weakness of religion, democratic and undemocratic tendencies, the poverty of public debate, the role of elites, the exploitation of Australian sports stars, the politics of railways, the backwardness of agriculture, deviation from the Westminster system, the original encounter between European and Aboriginal cultures, and the heavy taxation of tobacco.

Bringing together contributions from economists, economic historians, and political scientists, the volume seeks to understand why Australia is different. It offers a range of explanations from the 'historical legacy', to material factors, historical chance, and personalities.

Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788

By Richard Broome

Brand: Allen Unwin
Paperback (336 pages)

Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788
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A powerful history of black and white encounters in Australia since colonization, this fully updated edition remains the only concise survey of Aboriginal history since 1788
 
In the creation of any new society, there are winners and losers. So it was with Australia as it grew from a colonial outpost to an affluent society. Richard Broome tells the history of Australia from the standpoint of the original Australians: those who lost most in the early colonial struggle for power. Surveying two centuries of Aboriginal-European encounters, he shows how white settlers steadily supplanted the original inhabitants, from the shining coasts to inland deserts, by sheer force of numbers, disease, technology, and violence. He also tells the story of Aboriginal survival through resistance and accommodation, and traces the continuing Aboriginal struggle to move from the margins of a settler society to a more central place in modern. Since its first edition in 1982, Broome's Aboriginal Australians has won acclaim as a classic account of race relations in Australia. This fully rewritten fourth edition continues the story, covering the uneven implementation of native title, the plight of remote Aboriginal communities, the "Intervention," and the landmark apology to the "stolen generations" by Federal Parliament.

In a Sunburned Country

By Bill Bryson

Broadway Books
Released: 2001-05-15
Paperback (352 pages)

In a Sunburned Country
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Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out.

His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the Woods. In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiousity.

Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book.

Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide.

Australia: A Very Short Introduction

By Kenneth Morgan

imusti
Paperback (152 pages)

Australia: A Very Short Introduction
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In this Very Short Introduction, Kenneth Morgan provides a wide-ranging thematic introduction to modern Australia, examining the main features of its history, geography and culture since the beginning of European settlement in New South Wales in 1788. It highlights the distinctive features of Australian life by placing contemporary developments in historical perspective, by paying attention to Australia's indigenous culture, and by making connections between Australia and the wider world. Morgan also balances his discussion of the successful growth of Australian institutions and democratic traditions with the struggles that occurred in the making of modern Australia--in other words, between the optimistic approach to life in the Antipodes and the more negative view of the "black armband tradition."

The Search for Tactical Success in Vietnam: An Analysis of Australian Task Force Combat Operations (Australian Army History Series)

By Andrew Ross & Amy Griffin

Amy Griffin Andrew Ross Robert Hall
Hardcover (352 pages)

The Search for Tactical Success in Vietnam: An Analysis of Australian Task Force Combat Operations (Australian Army History Series)
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  • The Search for Tactical Success in Vietnam An Analysis of Australian Task Force Combat Operations Australian Army History Series
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From 1966 to 1971 the First Australian Task Force was part of the counterinsurgency campaign in South Vietnam. Though considered a small component of the Free World effort in the war, these troops from Australia and New Zealand were in fact the best trained and prepared for counterinsurgency warfare. However, until now, their achievements have been largely overlooked by military historians. The Search for Tactical Success in Vietnam sheds new light on this campaign by examining the thousands of small-scale battles that the First Australian Task Force was engaged in. The book draws on statistical, spatial and temporal analysis, as well as primary data, to present a unique study of the tactics and achievements of the First Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam. Further, original maps throughout the text help to illustrate how the Task Force's tactics were employed.

Indigenous Peoples of the World - Australia

By Anne Sharp

Lucent Books
Hardcover (112 pages)

Indigenous Peoples of the World - Australia
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The Aborigines of Australia have one of the most fascinating, unique and oldest cultures in the world. This factual account focuses on their society, spirituality, history and way of life from its earliest beginnings to the twenty-first century.

Australians: Origins to Eureka

By Thomas Keneally

Allen & Unwin
Hardcover (628 pages)

Australians: Origins to Eureka
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The outstanding first volume of acclaimed author Thomas Keneally's major new three-volume history of Australia brings to life the vast range of characters who have formed Australia's national story
 
Convicts and Aborigines, settlers and soldiers, patriots and reformers, bushrangers and gold seekers—it is from their lives and their stories that Tom Keneally has woven a vibrant history to do full justice to the rich and colorful nature of Australia's unique national character. The story begins by looking at European occupation through Aboriginal eyes, moving between the city slums and rural hovels of 18th-century Britain and the shores of Port Jackson. Readers spend time on the low-roofed convict decks of transports and see the bewilderment of the Eora people as they see the first ships of turaga, or "ghost people." They follow the daily round of Bennelong and his wife Barangaroo and the tribulations of warrior Windradyne. Convicts like Solomon Wiseman and John Wilson find their feet and even fortune, while Henry Parkes' arrival as a penniless immigrant gives few clues to the national statesman he was to become. Chinese diggers trek to the goldfields, and revolutionaries like Italian Raffaello Carboni and black American John Joseph bring readers the drama of the Eureka uprising. Tom Keneally has brought to life the high and the low, the convict and the free of early Australian society. This is truly a new history of Australia, by an author of outstanding literary skill and experience, whose own humanity permeates every page.


 
 
 

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