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Australasia - History of England


AustraliasiaAustralia and New Zealand (Or Australasia)

European explorers were active in the area of Australia and New Zealand at roughly the same time as they were discovering North America. However the first recorded landing in Australia was not until 1616 when Dutchman Dirk Hartog landed on an island off the west coast of Australia. Another Dutchman Abel Janzoon Tazman, in 1642 tried to land on the South Island of New Zealand but met with a violent attack by the local Maoris and was turned away.

It was left to Englishman James Cooke in 1768 to land and scientifically map the coast of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia as part of his three year westward circumnavigation of the globe. In 1770 he landed on Australia's east coast (which he called New South Wales) by way of Tahiti, Norfolk Island and New Zealand.

On his return to England the initial interest back home was in Tahiti because of Cooks artist's drawings and descriptions of the beautiful, naked and sexually extremely willing, Tahiti women. Australia's Kangaroos couldn't compete!


Cooke was fortunate to have recruited a keen amateur botanist for the trip, a James Banks educated at Eton and Oxford who realised in Australia he had found something quite extraordinary if not unique. What we now know is that Australia is indeed unique in that it has been separated from the other continents of the world for more than 40 million years and thus its plants and animals have evolved separately from that period, as is evidenced by Kangaroos, Koala Bears and Eucalyptus trees. Crocodiles lived at the time of the Dinosaurs and hence are in Australia in abundance. Similarly the humans in Australia as observed by the early European visitors seemed primitive to the extreme. They arrived in Australia during the last Ice Age some 40,000 years ago when the sea level was about 400 feet lower than to day and they could easily migrate from the north using primitive boats with out ever loosing the site of land. (American Indians did not arrive until 15,000 years ago.) The English were used to colonizing amongst stone age societies viz North America but Australian Aborigines were something else. Stone age indeed but they had not even invented the bow and arrow or the tent. Instead they had developed an incredible ability to mimic the sounds of wildlife to lure prey for breakfast. North American Indians had had as many as 7 wives but their courting methods were positively 21th century compared with Aboriginal men who were observed to simply hit their future spouse over the head with a stick and drag her off to any convenient place for sex. Since Queen Elizabeth 1st Englishmen had felt morally and religiously superior to men not of the Protestant faith and ranked those who did not till the land at the bottom of the human pile deserving only contempt. North American Indians and certainly Aborigines fell into this category. In the 1800's it was not unusual to hunt Aborigines like wild animals for "sport".

Early settlers

Georgian England (18th century) became the undisputed global superpower in 1750's when the French were finally eliminated from North America and India simultaneously! but through arrogance and incompetence they lost the prized North American colonies in 1776. At home the superpower was no model of equality, freedom or human rights, the rich (landed aristocracy) were very rich (about 160,000 men), the middle classes, about the same in number but did not have the vote and the remainder 7 million or so were very poor, downtrodden and often unhappy. (The concept of any responsibility super rich leaders should have for the poor "down and outs" would not show for 100 years yet.) This was the time when the only relief from continuous hunger pains could be obtained by getting drunk on gin which was made in England and cheap. (One penny for happiness two for oblivion). Petty crime was continuous and the English jails were overfull with petty criminals who up to 1776 could conveniently be shipped off to the North American and Caribbean colonies as slaves. Where to put them now? Australia.

The penal colonies 

20th January 1788. Only eight years after Cooke had discovered Australia, the first fleet of segregated male and female convict ships landed in Botany Bay after a 16,000 mile, nine month trip from Portsmouth on the south coast of England, via Tenerife, Cape Verde Islands, Rio De Janeiro and Cape Town. A number of male inmates were noted to celebrate their arrival by having immediate sex on the beach with the willing female cons whose clothes had rotted away and were no longer covering those parts which were normally not on show. Including the prostitutes none of the other inmates and their guards had ever been put in a survival situation before where the knowledge of house building and farming would have been useful accessories. The key object of the exercise as far as Prime Minister William Pitt (the elder) and his supporting minister Lord Sydney were concerned was to get rid of these trouble makers. Their survival was of no importance. Fortunately the man they put in charge of the fleet and of setting up the first penal colony (a retired Captain Arthur Phillip, living as a gentleman farmer near Lyndhurst Hampshire) was of a more sympathetic mind and did his level best to keep as many alive, both on the trip and in Botany Bay as possible.

Prime Minister Pitt had other reasons for setting up a colony in Australasia. Britain, with the largest fleet in the world was desperately short of timber for masts and flax to make the linen sails and much of both was imported from Russia. Captain Cooke or rather his botanist James Banks had noted that the pine trees native to Norfolk Island looked suitable for battle ship's masts and flax to make linen sails was growing wild. Norfolk Island was less than 1000 miles east of Botany Bay and both were not that far from the source of England's wealth India! Convict labour would soon be sent there to harvest and manufacture for the British Empire.

The Colony in Botany Bay was not working mainly because the land, densely forested with Eucalyptus trees, was impossible to cultivate, particularly with unskilled and reluctant labour. Captain Philip soon ordered a ship to explore the coast for a better location and Sydney Harbour was located in less then a days sail north. The Colony moved there in total. (Sydney named after Lord Sydney was initially called Port Jackson.)

Norfolk Island 

The day after the arrival of the first fleet of convicts at Botany Bay Lieutenant Philip Gidley selected 23, including 6 women, out of the 759 who had survived, for the final 1000 mile leg to Norfolk Island to commence the production of the much needed masts and sails. Within a few months of arrival 4 of the women convicts were happily and willingly pregnant, one by Philip Gidley himself and all by men who looked after them as wives. That was the only goods news. As in Australia practical survival skills were not on the list of the convicts or their masters abilities and to cut a long and harrowing story short and following a cruel a regime that had existed anywhere in the British Empire, plus near total starvation, the colony was abandoned in 1814 without one mast or one sail being produced. Any remaining convicts were shipped to the newer penal colony in Tasmania.


Sidney harbour is one of the most visually attractive and best natural harbours in the world but this did not help the fledgling colonialists, as nobody had the hardworking ethic of the Puritans of Boston or the profit motive of the early Virginians of 200 years earlier. Early pilgrims in Boston had received some help from the local (stone age) Indians which was not on hand from the native (even more primitive, stone age) Aborigines. Even hardened English convicts were horrified by their new hosts who seemed to be the dirtiest, crudest nomads the European world had ever come across. The convicts starved and were only kept alive by the annual visits by food ships from England. Fortunately Captain Philip returned to England and left the colony under the charge of an entrepreneurial thug, Francis Gross, who by creating a hierarchy of his cronies, rewarded by achievement of set targets, like land clearance and crop yields for land ownership, whipped the colony into self sufficient capitalist regime.


In 1803 the French had got over their defeats by England in America and India circa 1760, had had their revolution in 1789 and produced Napoleon Bonaparte who was clearly attempting to rule the whole of Europe and set to attack England and their British Empire. The rumour was that the French were about to colonise Tasmania so the English decided to get there first. Another penal colony was quickly decided upon. Tasmania was another territory which had been joined to the Australian mainland 40 million years ago and was in 1803 inhabited by similar stone age Aborigines. The English penal colony authorities were no kinder to these folk than they had been to the Aborigines of Australia. Indeed as food regularly was short both sections of society hunted the same Kangaroos and they became scarce. This prompted the English to cull the Aborigines to eliminate the competition and this became the worst case of genocide ever committed in any of the English colonies.

New Zealand

The two islands of New Zealand still carry their name of Dutch origin following their discovery by Abel Tasman in 1642 (Nieu Zelandt). The islands were first inhabited some 1000 years ago by Polynesian Maoris and other than the Dutch of the 1600s did not site another foreigner until Englishman James Cooke and Frenchman Jean Francois Marie de Surville landed simultaneously in 1769. They never saw each other. From this date onwards New Zealand was settled by a few English and French traders, whalers and missionaries who lived comparatively peacefully with the Maoris until 1840 when the English signed a land purchase deal with the locals. (Treaty of Waitangi). This sparked off an immediate influx of English settlers and the inevitable land war which lasted for the next 25 years. The Maoris were a formidable foe.

Chatham Islands

These series of islands are at a similar distance and direction (east) from New Zealand as Norfolk Island is from Australia and was first discovered by English maritime explorer George Vancouver in 1871. Vancouver found the islands inhabited by a race similar to Maoris which we now call the Moriori who had arrived either before or at the same time as the Maoris landed in New Zealand. As with the Maoris they had landed there by canoe and there being no suitable timber for making canoes on the Island were stuck there. Sometime after they landed, they commenced intertribal battles which decimated their population. Fortunately a leader emerged who outlawed killing and the Morioris remain pacifists until they died out in 1933. Soon after 1871 Europeans and North Americans arrived in the area and the English claimed Chatham Islands became a centre for Whaling and Sealing. This decimated the Morioris who lived largely from seals. Seal skins for clothes and seal flesh to supplement their diet of shell fish and birds.

It did not take many years before English settlers in New Zealand needed somewhere to put prisoners and where better than Chatham Island. However the main problem for the Morioris was not the white man but Maoris who fleeing the English looked for new lands on the Chatham's. Bearing in mind the Morioris were pacifists and the Maoris were exceptionally good warriors, this resulted in a cull of Moriori which reduced their population to less than 100.

Today the population of the Chatham's is around 700 all living on two of the 10 islands which are part of New Zealand territory.

Expanding colonisation 

Australia was largely a self sufficient English convict colony until 1850 when gold was discovered both in Australia and New Zealand causing a huge flow of many nationalities to both countries. In Australia the Aborigines were not involved as the concept of getting rich quick was not in their psyche and their population was steadily reduced (as in North America mainly by Small Pox) and they fled to the north part of both East and West Australia. Their population was reduced from about 750,000 to something around 70,000 by 1900. In New Zealand the Maoris (having been isolated for only some 700 years compared to native Australians for more than 30,000 years) were quick to learn European skills and after two bloody wars in the 1860s came to reasonably firm land agreements and peace treaties.

After 100 years of mainly English immigration to Australia the economy and social landscape had totally changed. In 1788 the land was occupied by 750,000 stone age, hunter gathers. In 1888 there were only some 70,000 Aborigines left augmented by 100 million sheep, 12 million cattle and 3.5 million European Australians. New Zealand saw a proportionally similar quantity of sheep and cattle, both countries making use of English technology to transport wool, lamb, beef and dairy products to back to England. (English built steam railways to get product the huge distances to the ports and English refrigerated, steam turbine driven shipping for the now not so long haul back home.) Both Australia and New Zealand had the highest living standards in the world for the working man and were very happy being part of the British Empire. Indeed New Zealand was the first country in the world to give voting rights to women. All this began to change after the Second World War.

  1. Australasians had watched the mighty British Empire being humbled by the Japanese military and when Singapore fell they knew that England were fully stretched in fighting simultaneously in Europe, North Africa, Middle East, India, Burma, Malaysia and so on. Australia and New Zealand were on their own and dreaded an invasion from Japan. The only nation who could possibly help them was America. Fortunately it didn't come to this particularly as both Australian and New Zealand troops were absent helping the British.
  2. Post 1945 there was a huge influx of immigrants from all over Europe as Australasia was seen as being a safe haven from European wars and now Soviet Nuclear warfare. Main immigration now England , Ireland, Italy and Greece.

Australians along with much of the British Empire pondered their affiliation to a now defunct global superpower. And in 1967 the USA replaced England as the largest overseas investor and Australians allow Asians to settle. In New Zealand the largest recent immigration is from the Polynesian Islands and Auckland is the worlds largest Polynesian city.

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