1840s Summary

During the 1840s, transportation of convicts to the east coast of Australia ended. This signified a change in status from a penal colony to a free society. The colonists wanted greater control over the political decision making in local affairs, and as an example of this new-found authority, Australia's first political election was conducted to vote in the mayor of Adelaide. The city had become Australia's first municipality, having acquired a population of more than 2,000 people. South Australia also became a Crown colony during the 1840s, thus losing its semi-independent status.

In the early 1840s groups known as 'overlanders' began driving thousands of cattle and sheep overland from one colony to another. Drovers risked attack from the Aboriginal clans whose land they were traversing and sometimes occupying. The squatters (land owners/occupiers) challenged new regulations imposed by Governor George Gipps (1791–1847) surrounding the land issue, and formed their own Mutual Protection Society. The exploration and renaming of the continent and its natural features continued during the 1840s, gradually pushing out the boundaries of the known area of each colony.

As colonisation expanded throughout the 1840s, and the British took ownership and control of the land without discussion or debate, Indigenous peoples continued to fight back to save their land and to survive. During the decade, many massacres took place across the country, the majority of which were unrecorded.


·       Paul Edmund de Strzelecki climbs and names Australiaís highest mountain, Mount Kosciusko

·       Transportation of convicts to NSW ends

·       First Welsh come to Australia 

·       Civil War breaks out in Uruguay between the Colorados (reds) and Blancos (whites).

·       Upper and Lower Canada are united in the single Province of Canada.

·       Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg

·       Maori chiefs sign over their tribal lands to Queen Victoria in the Treaty of Waitangi.

·       The Underground Railroad is active in helping escaping slaves in the U.S.

·       The metric system of measurement is reinstated in France.

·       The first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, is issued in London.



·       George Grey is appointed governor of South Australia to help save the colony.

·       Edward John Eyre explores South Australia and discovers Lake EyreEyre crosses the Nullarbor to Western Australia.

·       First government building for postal services opens in Melbourne

·       Australiaís first gas lighting is turned on in Sydney

·       Silver-lead deposits are found near Adelaide.

·       Harrison is inaugurated as the 9th U.S. president; Tyler becomes vice-president.

·       New Zealand is established as a separate British colony.

·       Whig prime minister Lord Melbourne resigns; he is succeeded by Sir Robert Peel.

·       President Harrison dies; John Tyler is inaugurated as the 10th U.S. president

·       Edgar Allan Poe writes an early detective story The Murders in the Rue Morgue.



·       German immigrants settle at Lobethal in SA

·       A native police force is established in the Port Philip district

·       Copper and gold discovered in Australia

·       Four buildings destroyed by fire in Collins Street, Melbourne

·       China is defeated in the first Opium War; Chinese ports are opened to British trade.

·       China cedes Hong Kong to Britain.

·       American showman P.T. Barnum discovers the 40-inch small person Tom Thumb



·       Irrigation used to grow hops on the Derwent River in Van Diemenís Land

·       First coal mined in Van Diemenís Land, at Colebrook



·       Settlers in New South Wales force Britain to stop sending convicts to the colony.

·       Charles Sturt attempts to reach Central Australia from Adelaide and fails.

·       First permanent Hebrew synagogue is established in Sydney

·       Butter and cheese are exported to the Californian goldfields from Sydney

·       First Catholic school is established in Perth

·       French author Alexandre Dumas (Dumas pere) publishes The Three Musketeers.

·       Samuel F.B. Morse establishes the first U.S. telegraph link.

·       The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) is founded in England.



·       Charles Sturt is Colonial Treasurer.

·       Whaling industry off the southern coast brings the Right whale near to extinction

·       Victoriaís first Fire Brigade was organized

·       Australiaís worst maritime disaster occurred when the emigrant sailing ship Cataraqui hits the coast of King Island-406 people die

·       The Sikh Wars begin in British India

·       Failure of the potato crop leads to a famine in Ireland.

·       Sir John Franklin leads an ill-fated expedition in search of the Northwest Passage.

·       The first clipper ship the Rainbow is built in New York.

·       German composer Robert Schumann writes his Piano Concerto in A minor.

·       American author Margaret Fuller publishes Women in the Nineteenth Century.



·       Copper ore is discovered in SA

·       Benedictine monks establish a mission for Aborigines in WA

·       First bridge over the Yarra River is completed

·       The border between the U.S. and Canada is established, settling the Oregon Question.

·       The Mexican War begins over the U.S. annexation of Texas.

·       The Mexican government collapses; Santa Anna is reelected as president.

·       U.S. forces under Stephen Watts Kearny occupy New Mexico.

·       American dentist William Morton extracts a tooth using ether as an anesthetic.

·       Writer and artist Edward Lear publishes A Book of Nonsense.



·       The Mormons under Brigham Young found Salt Lake City.

·       The U.S. post office begins using adhesive postage stamps.

·       English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray begins Vanity Fair.

·       Charlotte Bronte publishes Jane Eyre

·       Emily Bronte publishes Wuthering Heights.



·       Ludwig Leichardt disappears while exploring Central Australia.

·       The Revolutions of 1848 break out in Europe.

·       Risorgimento leader Garibaldi returns to Italy to fight in the war of independence.

·       Louis Philippe abdicates; a Second Republic is declared in France.

·       Uprisings in Berlin force Frederick William IV to summon a constitutional assembly.

·       A Czech uprising under Frantisek Palacky is suppressed by Austria.

·       The Austrian revolution begins in Vienna; chancellor Metternich resigns.

·       Ferdinand I abdicates; Francis Joseph becomes Emperor of Austria.

·       The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill begins the California gold rush.

·       American engineer James Bogardus begins using cast-iron for building construction.



·       Austrian forces crush the Italian revolution; Mazzini and Garibaldi flee from Italy.

·       Lajos Kossuth declares Hungarian independence from Austria.

·       Austrian premier Felix Schwarzenberg uses the Russian army to defeat the Hungarians.

·       Black slave Harriet Tubman escapes and begins her Underground Railway work.

·       Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman to obtain a medical degree.

·       Amelia Bloomer publicizes bloomers (baggy trousers for women) in the Lily magazine.

·       French physicist Armand Fizeau measures the velocity of light. 

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