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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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Australia: History of Australia: Discover the major events that shaped the history of Australia

By James Walker

Independently published
Paperback (184 pages)

Australia: History of Australia: Discover the major events that shaped the history of Australia
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Australia is the land where opportunity knocks for everyone, no matter who you are, Australia is open and ready for you to create your own lifestyle and live your dreams.

Although Australia may appear as a hostile, arid chunk of land at first glance, the truth is that this mystical, faraway land is rich in more ways than one. Apart from kangaroos and other iconic, endemic species that roam the Australian landscape, the Land Down Under is also home to a vibrant and diverse culture, as well as some of the oldest surviving folk traditions maintained by Aboriginal Australians. Being incredibly diverse themselves, the indigenous people of Australia are made up of a wide range of tribes that speak many languages and maintain countless ancient customs. While the British certainly played a decisive role in Australia’s development, they weren’t quite the first to arrive, which is just one of the misconceptions that are all too common. How and when the Dutch got there first will become abundantly clear in the early chapters of this book where we will delve deeper into these defining historical events. As we proceed through the chapters, we will explore the entire journey that Australia has had to make to arrive at the point where it is today. Like many other former colonies, Australia gives off the illusion of having a short and uneventful past, which could not be further from the truth. Apart from the indigenous people and their stories, even the relatively brief colonial period is enough of a tale to fill out several volumes.

This book aims to put that information and more into a comprehensive and accessible read for all of those who wish to acquaint themselves with this unique country.

In addition to history, we will also delve into the life and structure of contemporary Australian society and state. This will provide insight into what exactly it means to be Australian and how the country’s past has defined this modern, developed land, which 25 million people now call their home. You will find that, as always, there is more than meets the eye, and that Australia not only has a rich history but has also contributed a great deal to the world as a whole. Let's explore Australia History today

Australian History for Dummies

By Alex McDermott

For Dummies
Released: 2011-05-16
Paperback (448 pages)

Australian History for Dummies
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Created especially for the Australian customer!

Exciting and informative history of the land down under

Australian History For Dummies is your tour guide through the important events of Australia's past, introducing you to the people and events that have shaped modern Australia. Be there as British colonists explore Australia's harsh terrain with varying degrees of success. In this informative guide you'll

  • Find out about Australia's infamous bushrangers
  • Learn how the discovery of gold caused a tidal wave of immigration from all over the world
  • Understand how Australia took two steps forward to become a nation in its own right in 1901, and two steps back when the government was dismissed by the Crown in 1975

Discover the fascinating details that made Australia the country it is today!





Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Powers

By K. Langloh Parker

Park Street Press
Released: 1993-07-01
Paperback (160 pages)

Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Powers
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Extending deep into the caverns of humanity's oldest memories, beyond 60,000 years of history and into the Dreamtime, this collection of Australian Aboriginal myths has been passed down through the generations by tribal storytellers. The myths were compiled at the turn of the century by K. Langloh Parker, one of the first Europeans to realize their significance and spiritual sophistication. Saved from drowning by Aboriginal friends when she was just a child, Parker subsequently gained unique access to Aboriginal women and to stories that had previously eluded anthropologists.

In the stories, women tell of their own initiations and ceremonies, the origins and destiny of humanity, and the behavioral codes for society. Included are stories of child-rearing practices, young love in adversity, the dangers of invoking the spiritual powers, the importance of social sharing, the role of women in male conflicts, the dark feminine, and the transformational power of language. Wise Women of the Dreamtime allows us to participate in the world's oldest stories and to begin a new dream of harmony between human society and nature.

Australia's Impressionists

By Christopher Riopelle, Allison Goudie & Sarah Thomas

National Gallery London
Hardcover (128 pages)

Australia s Impressionists
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  • National Gallery London
Product Description:

Australia’s Impressionists focuses on the paintings of Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, and John Peter Russell. All were key players in a distinctively Australian art movement that drew on influences ranging from Whistler’s subtle Nocturnes to the European tradition of plein air painting, and revealed Russell (who spent his working life in France, embedded in the avant garde) as one of the outstanding colorists of his time. This beautiful book challenges our preconceptions of what is meant by Impressionism, enriches our understanding of Australian art, and reveals the international nature of art-historical movements and exchanges in the 19th century. The story is framed by unmistakably Australian subjects and locations, by a preoccupation with light and color, and in the context of Australian identity and sense of nationhood. 


The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding

By Robert Hughes

Vintage
Released: 1988-02-12
Cream 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.

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia

By Bill Gammage

Allen Unwin Australia
Paperback (384 pages)

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia
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  • Allen Unwin Australia
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Reveals the complex, country-wide systems of land management used by Aboriginal people in presettlement Australia
 
Across Australia, early Europeans commented again and again that the land looked like a park, with extensive grassy patches and pathways, open woodlands, and abundant wildlife. Bill Gammage has discovered this was because Aboriginal people managed the land in a far more systematic and scientific fashion than most people have ever realized. For more than a decade, he has examined written and visual records of the Australian landscape. He has uncovered an extraordinarily complex system of land management using fire, the life cycles of native plants, and the natural flow of water to ensure plentiful wildlife and plant foods throughout the year. Aboriginal people spent far less time and effort than Europeans in securing food and shelter, and this book reveals how. Once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to the hugely damaging bushfires Australians now experience. With details of land-management strategies from around Australia, this book rewrites the history of the continent, with huge implications for today.

The European Settlement of Australia: The History and Legacy of Early Expeditions and British Settlements on the Australian Continent

By Charles River Editors

Charles River Editors
Audible Audiobook

The European Settlement of Australia: The History and Legacy of Early Expeditions and British Settlements on the Australian Continent
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"It is quite time that our children were taught a little more about their country, for shame's sake." - Henry Lawson, Australian poet

A land of almost 3 million square miles has lain since time immemorial on the southern flank of the planet, so isolated that it remained entirely outside of European knowledge until 1770. However, the first human footprints on this vast territory were felt 70,000 years earlier, as people began to cross the periodic land bridges and the short sea crossings from Southeast Asia.

The history of the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, known in contemporary anthropology as the "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia", is a complex and continually evolving field of study, and it has been colored by politics. For generations after the arrival of whites in Australia, the Aboriginal people were disregarded and marginalized, largely because they offered little in the way of a labor resource, and they occupied land required for European settlement.

At the same time, it is a misconception that indigenous Australians meekly accepted the invasion of their country by the British, for they did not. They certainly resisted, but as far as colonial wars during that era went, the frontier conflicts of Australia did not warrant a great deal of attention. Indigenous Australians were hardly a warlike people, and without central organization, or political cohesion beyond scattered family groups, they succumbed to the orchestrated advance of white settlement with passionate, but futile resistance. In many instances, aggressive clashes between the two groups simply gave the white colonists reasonable cause to inflict a style of genocide on the Aborigines that stood in the way of progress.

In any case, their fate had largely been sealed by the first European sneeze in the Terra Australis, which preceded the importation of the two signature mediums of social destruction. The first was a collection of alien diseases, chief among smallpox, but also cholera, influenza, measles, tuberculosis, syphilis, and the common cold. The second was alcohol. Smallpox alone killed more than 50 percent of the aboriginal population, and once the fabric of indigenous society had crumbled, alcohol provided emotional relief, but relegated huge numbers of Aborigines to the margins of a robust and emerging colonial society.

The European Settlement of Australia: The History and Legacy of Early Expeditions and British Settlements on the Australian Continent analyzes the expeditions that discovered Australia and the subsequent settlements over the course of about 150 years. You will learn about the European settlement of Australia like never before. 

A Concise History of Australia (Cambridge Concise Histories)

By Stuart Macintyre

Cambridge Univ Pr
Paperback (396 pages)

A Concise History of Australia (Cambridge Concise Histories)
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  • Cambridge Univ Pr
Product Description:
Australia is the last continent to be settled by Europeans, but it also sustains a people and a culture tens of thousands years old. For much of the past 225 years the newcomers have sought to replace the old with the new. This book tells how they imposed themselves on the land, and describes how they brought technology, institutions and ideas to make it their own. The fourth edition incorporates the far-reaching effects of an export and investment boom in the early years of the twenty-first century that lifted Australia to unprecedented prosperity. The sale of minerals and energy enabled the economy to withstand the global financial crisis of 2007-08 but there was no agreement on how the wealth was to be managed and its benefits distributed. The book describes a continuing search for solutions to climate change, the unauthorised arrival of refugees, Indigenous disadvantage and generational change.

Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia

By David Hunt

Black Inc.
Released: 2013-07-31
Kindle Edition (286 pages)

Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia
 
Product Description:
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.

Winner of the 2014 Indie Award for Non-Fiction

Shortlisted in the 2014 ABA Nielsen BookData Bookseller's Choice Awards, the 2014 NSW Premier's Literary Awards and the 2014 Australian Book Industry Awards.


‘Australian history never looked like this! Beneath the humour is an interesting analysis backed by extensive research, which has uprooted some little-known historical gems. Girt will appeal to readers who enjoyed John Birmingham’s Leviathan as much as lovers of Chaser-style satire and the humour of John Clarke … and leaves this reader hoping there will be further instalments.’ —Books+Publishing

Girt … cuts an irreverent swath through the facts, fools, fantasies and frauds that made this country what it is today, hoisting sacred cows on their own petards and otherwise sawing the legs off Lady Macquarie’s chair. I was transported.’ —Shane Maloney, The Age Best Books of 2013

Girt is a ripping read… a humorous history that is accessible enough to share with the eight-year-old. Hunt’s writing interests span comedy, politics and history, a happy triumvirate when your subject is Australia.’ —Stephen Romei, The Australian

‘There is barely a page in Girt that won’t inspire a chortle. It’s our early history told by a writer with a wit sharp enough to slice tomatoes. But it’s not all jokes and jolly japes. David Hunt has done his research…’ —Herald Sun

‘David Hunt knows how to make the most of history’s juicy bits to hook the reader.’ —The Age

Where Song Began: Australia's Birds and How They Changed the World

By Tim Low

imusti
Released: 2016-09-27
Hardcover (424 pages)

Where Song Began: Australia s Birds and How They Changed the World
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  • Yale University Press
Product Description:
An authoritative and entertaining exploration of Australia’s distinctive birds and their unheralded role in global evolution

Renowned for its gallery of unusual mammals, Australia is also a land of extraordinary birds. But unlike the mammals, the birds of Australia flew beyond the continent’s boundaries and around the globe many millions of years ago. This eye-opening book tells the dynamic but little-known story of how Australia provided the world with songbirds and parrots, among other bird groups, why Australian birds wield surprising ecological power, how Australia became a major evolutionary center, and why scientific biases have hindered recognition of these discoveries.
 
From violent, swooping magpies to tool-making cockatoos, Australia’s birds are strikingly different from birds of other lands—often more intelligent and aggressive, often larger and longer-lived. Tim Low, a renowned biologist with a rare storytelling gift, here presents the amazing evolutionary history of Australia’s birds. The story of the birds, it turns out, is inseparable from the story of the continent itself and also the people who inhabit it.


 
 
 

 
 
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