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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.
Released: 2013-07-24
Kindle Edition (286 pages)

Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia
 
Product Description:
Winner, 2014 Indie Award for Non-Fiction

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.

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

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 in the Australian

David Hunt is an unusually tall and handsome man who likes writing his own bios for all the books he has written. David is the author of Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia, which won the 2014 Indie Award for non-fiction and was shortlisted in both the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and Australian Book Industry Awards. True Girt, the sequel, was published in 2016, as was a book for children, The Nose Pixies. David has a birthmark that looks like Tasmania, only smaller and not as far south.

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!





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
Released: 2018-05-30
Kindle Edition

The European Settlement of Australia: The History and Legacy of Early Expeditions and British Settlements on the Australian Continent
 
Product Description:
*Includes pictures
*Includes contemporary accounts
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents

“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% 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. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the European settlement of Australia like never before.

Learning About Australia (Searchlight Books) (Searchlight Books - Do You Know the Continents?)

By Lisa Owings

Lerner Publications
Paperback (40 pages)

Learning About Australia (Searchlight Books) (Searchlight Books - Do You Know the Continents?)
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Australia is the smallest continent, known for having the largest coral reef in the world. But did you know that Australia is the only continent that is also a country? Or that one-third of Australia is a desert? Learn more about the diverse continent of Australia, from its people and cities to its landforms, economy, and more. Each book in this series highlights major landforms, climate, natural resources, countries, and cultures of the continent, making for an engaging and well-rounded read. Sidebars, maps, a glossary, a Further Reading section, and an index introduce readers to important nonfiction features and support and enhance the main text.

Australia: A Cultural History (Third Edition) (Australian History)

By John Rickard

Monash University Publishing
Paperback (320 pages)

Australia: A Cultural History (Third Edition) (Australian History)
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"A perceptive, balanced, wide-ranging interpretation of the evolution of modern Australia which is both erudite and well-written."--Duncan Bythell ***John Rickard's Australia: A Cultural History, first published in 1988, is still the only short history of Australia from a cultural perspective. It has also acquired a unique reputation as an introduction to the development of Australian society and was listed by the historian and public intellectual John Hirst in his First XI: The Best Australian History Books. Although arranged chronologically, this book is not a chronicle; rather, it focuses on the transmission of values, beliefs, and customs amongst the diverse mix of peoples who are today's Australians. The story begins with the sixty thousand years of the Aboriginal presence and their continuing material and spiritual relationship with the land. The reader is led through the turbulent years of British colonisation and the emergence-through prosperity, war, and depression-of the cultural accommodations which have been distinctively Australian. The third edition concludes with a critical review of the challenges facing contemporary Australia and warns that 'we may get the future we deserve.' (Series: Australian History) [Subject: History, Sociology]

The Toughest Fighting in the World: The Australian and American Campaign for New Guinea in World War II

By George H. Johnston

Westholme Publishing
Released: 2011-09-30
Paperback (256 pages)

The Toughest Fighting in the World: The Australian and American Campaign for New Guinea in World War II
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“No other writer has turned out a book on the fighting in New Guinea that can match Mr. Johnston’s. Superior literary quality projects this work far in advance of those earlier and more hasty accounts. Mr. Johnston is a young Australian war correspondent who lived through most of the action he describes. The reader will know that from the first page and is apt to find himself tensely hunched up as he is carried into the jungles by this writer's extraordinary reporting and artistry. As Mr. Johnston himself admits, the title sounds bombastic and the sensitive book purchaser might well shy from it. This would be a mistake, since the title is thoroughly honest.”—New York Times

“It is a book of episodes which are fitted together into a pattern that tells his story in compelling fashion. Mr. Johnston is a brilliant descriptive writer and the full flavor of this extraordinary battle is in his book.”—Saturday Review of Literature

Following their attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines, the Japanese invaded New Guinea in early 1942 as part of their attempt to create a Pacific empire. Control of New Guinea would enable Japan to establish large army, air force, and naval bases in close proximity to Australia. The Australians, with American cooperation, began a counterattack in earnest. The mountainous terrain covered with nearly impenetrable tropical forest and full of natural hazards resulted in an exceedingly grueling battleground. The struggle for New Guinea, one of the major campaigns of World War II, lasted the entire war, with the crucial fighting occurring in the first year. In The Toughest Fighting in the World, first published in 1943, Australian war correspondent George H. Johnston recorded the efforts of both the Australian and American troops, aided by the New Guinea native people, throughout 1942 as they fought a series of vicious and bitter battles against a determined foe. In one of the classic accounts of combat in World War II, the author makes a compelling case that the hardships endured by the soldiers in New Guinea from both nature and the enemy were among the most severe in the war.

First People Then And Now: Introducing Indigenous Australians

By Marji Hill

The Prison Tree Press
Released: 2017-02-07
Kindle Edition (102 pages)

First People Then And Now: Introducing Indigenous Australians
 
Product Description:
Discover! the rich cultural heritage of Australia’s first people then and now in one of the world’s first centres of civilisation.
Do you want to learn about the vast, sweeping epic story of Australia’s first people dating from 65,000 years ago to the present day?

In her most recent book Marji Hill, author of over 60 publications, presents the big picture - history, rich cultural heritage, British invasion, resistance, and the process of reclaiming an almost lost inheritance.

First People Then And Now

Provides answers to questions asked about Aborigines by visitors to Australia from around the globe

Explains concepts like the Dreamtime, totems, Native title, clan, “tribe”

Shows how the cultures of Aboriginal people survived in the face of almost total dispossession and destruction

Promotes understanding between Indigenous Australians and Non-Indigenous Australians

* Brings into the spotlight the culture and humanity of Aboriginal Australians coupled  with the insidious colonisation by the British



Do not expect an academic treatise with First People Then And Now  as it is primarily a short, educational book about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders designed as a starting point for those who want to know more.

Marji Hill is not Indigenous so the book is not written from an Indigenous perspective. However, Marji has had a lifetime involvement with Aboriginal Australia and has spent years working with the first people and studying their cultures.

* The writing style is simple with headings reflecting the content of each section
 
* Neither the Indigenous Australians nor the British are glorified or villainised

* The book is a compelling and unbiased and questions are answered succinctly

If you are interested in gaining a basic understanding of the world’s oldest continuing civilisation, how it has evolved, and how it is characterised by its resilience, then this book is for you.

The Last Protector: The illegal removal of Aboriginal children from their parents in South Australia

By Cameron Raynes

Wakefield Press
Paperback (120 pages)

The Last Protector: The illegal removal of Aboriginal children from their parents in South Australia
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The Last Protector presents a compelling argument that the South Australian government illegally took Aboriginal children from their parents during the years between 1939 and 1954. Adelaide historian Cameron Raynes draws on extensive archival records, the contents of which have never before been available to the public.

The British Subjugation of Australia: The History of British Colonization and the Conquest of the Aboriginal Australians

By Charles River Editors

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (56 pages)

The British Subjugation of Australia: The History of British Colonization and the Conquest of the Aboriginal Australians
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*Includes pictures
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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 almost entirely outside of European knowledge until 1770. From there, however, the subjugation of Australia would take place rapidly. Within 20 years of the first British settlements being established, the British presence in Terra Australis was secure, and no other major power was likely to mount a challenge. In 1815, Napoleon would be defeated at Waterloo, and soon afterwards would be standing on the barren cliffs of Saint Helena, staring across the limitless Atlantic. The French, without a fleet, were out of the picture, the Germans were yet to establish a unified state, let alone an overseas empire of any significance, and the Dutch were no longer counted among the top tier of European powers.
Australia lay at an enormous distance from London, and its administration was barely supervised. Thus, its development was slow in the beginning, and its function remained narrowly defined, but as the 19th century progressed and peace took hold over Europe, things began to change. Immigration was steady, and the small spores of European habitation on the continent steadily grew. At the same time, the Royal Navy found itself with enormous resources of men and ships at a time when there was no war to fight. British sailors were thus employed for survey and exploration work, and the great expanses of Australia attracted particular interest. It was an exciting time, and an exciting age - the world was slowly coming under European sway, and Britain was rapidly emerging as its leader.
That said, the 19th century certainly wasn’t exciting for the people who already lived in Australia. 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% 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.


 
 
 

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