signpost 50s

icon australia1850's Summary

The discovery of gold leads to new settlement, as mining towns spring up in New South Wales and Victoria.

Between 1851 and 1852, mainly male migrants from Europe, the USA and Asia flooded the goldfields, which had an enormous effect on the populations of the colonies. Men left their jobs in droves to search for a fortune, thus causing a labour shortage in the city and country alike. These hopeful miners were from a variety of occupations and from every section of society. Others saw an opportunity to make money by providing the necessary provisions and equipment that miners needed to survive on the goldfields.

It also produces conflict--sometimes erupting into violence between the overbearing authoritarianism of the colonial governments and the radical political demands of the thousands of gold seekers from the British Isles, North America and New Zealand.  This was also a decade that saw an increase in Chinese people arriving in the colonies. Intolerance and prejudice against them exploded into violence on the Buckland River goldfield in Victoria, leading to the passing of anti-Chinese laws. Miners also resented the licence system and the government troopers who checked that all had paid for their right to mine. This resentment reached a peak in a battle known as the Eureka Rebellion.

Consequently, empowered by the Australian Colonies Government Act of 1850, all colonies, except Western Australia, adopt representative and responsible forms of government by 1860. Western Australia was established as a penal settlement and, in 1856, Van Diemen's Land was renamed Tasmania.


·       First adhesive postage stamp issued in NSW

·       Work begins on first railway line in NSW between Sydney and Parramatta

·       Christchurch is founded in New Zealand

·       The Taiping Rebellion breaks out in China against the Ch'ing dynasty.

·       The Compromise of 1850 establishes California as a non-slavery state.

·       English author Charles Dickens writes David Copperfield

·       Elizabeth Barrett Browning publishes her Sonnets From the Portuguese.

·       Jacob Fussell begins making ice cream in commercial quantities in Baltimore.



·       Discovery of gold in Victoria announced

·       Feb 6 Black Thursday: Bushfires rage from near Melbourne to SA border†

·       President Louis Napoleon of France carries out a coup díetat†

·       The colony of Victoria is established.

·       A Board for the Protection of Aboriginal people is set up and continues operating until 1957.

·       Isaac Merrit Singer invents the first practical sewing machine

·       The Crystal Palace is built in London to house the Great Exhibition

·       The U.S. yacht America defeats 17 British yachts in the first America's Cup contest.

·       American author Herman Melville publishes Moby-Dick.

·       Harriet Beecher Stowe begins publishing Uncle Tom's Cabin



·       Murrumbidgee floods Gundagai: death toll from drowning-89

·       Australiaís first university, the University of Sydney is founded†

·       The Second Empire begins in France under Napoleon III.

·       Argentinean dictator Rosas is defeated by forces under Urquiza at Monte Caseros

·       Britain gains control of the Irrawaddy delta after the second Anglo-Burma War.

·       The Grimms begin publication of their Deutsches Worterbuch (German Dictionary)



·       Chinese population on Victorian goldfields reaches 2000

·       Napoleon III marries the Empress Eugenie.

·       Chinese rebels capture Nanking and make it the capital of the Taiping kingdom.

·       General Santa Anna becomes dictator of Mexico for the last time.

·       A U.S. naval squadron under Matthew Perry enters Tokyo Bay to negotiate a treaty.

·       Russia occupies the Turkish principalities of Moldavia and Walachia.

·       Turkey issues an ultimatum to Russia; the Russians destroy the Turkish fleet at Sinope

·       Turkish states of Moldavia and Walachia occupied by Russia, sparking off Crimean War



·       Australiaís first telegraph line commences operation

·       Australiaís first steam railway opens between Flinders Street and Sandridge†

·       Charge of the Light Brigade during Battle of Balaclava in Crimea

Britain and France declare war on Russia, beginning the Crimean War

·       A commercial treaty is signed between the U.S. and Japan, ending Japanese isolation.

·       The British grant independence to the Orange Free State in South Africa.

·       An Anglo-French-Turkish expeditionary force lands at Sevastopol in the Crimea.

·       The Charge of the Light Brigade is made by the British during the Battle of Balaklava.

The Allied armies defeat the Russians at the Battle of Inkerman

Pope Pius IX proclaims the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.


·       Chinese population on Victorian goldfields reaches 20,000†

·       First bridge across Niagara Falls opens

·       The Allies occupy the Russian fortress at Sevastapol in the Crimea

Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia dies; he is succeeded by his son Alexander II

·       Scottish explorer David Livingstone discovers the Victoria Falls in Africa.

·       Florence Nightingale reforms hygienic standards in Crimean hospitals.

·       The first formal ice hockey game is played in Kingston, Ontario.

·       Walt Whitman publishes his first book of poetry, the Leaves of Grass.



·       Van Diemenís Land is officially named Tasmania

·       Melbourne Public Library opens

·       The Eight Hours Labour League is formed in Melbourne†

·       The Aboriginal Protection Act is passed in Westminster, legislation which provides for the first Aboriginal reserves to be set up countrywide.

·       The Treaty of Paris ends the Crimean War.

·       A new Opium War begins between China, Britain and France.

·       Victor Hugo writes Les Miserables during his exile from France.



·       Melbourne streets lit by gas lamp

·       Water supply from Yan Yean reservoir is turned on India formally becomes a British colony

·       Disputes between Mormons and non-Mormon settlers leads to the Utah War.

·       The Indian Mutiny begins when Indian troops rebel against the British in Meerut.

·       Elisha Graves Otis installs the first passenger elevator in a New York City store.

·       The Oxford English Dictionary is begun in England.



·       Sydney and South Head are connected by telephone

·       Sydney and Melbourne are linked by telegrap

·       First Australian Rules Football match is played between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar

·       The Indian Mutiny is suppressed by the British Army and loyal Indian troops.

·       The government of India is transferred from the East India Company to the British crown.

·       The Fenians (Irish Republican Brotherhood) are founded to overthrow British rule.

·       Britain and France impose the Tientsin Treaty on China.

·       British explorer John Hanning Speke discovers Lake Victoria in Africa

·       French photographer Nadar takes the first aerial photograph from a balloon.

·       Cyrus W. Field lays the first transatlantic telegraph cable

·       Bernadette Soubirous sees visions of the Vigin Mary in a grotto near Lourdes, France.



·       Spencer Street, Williamstown and Geelong are all connected by rail

·       Queensland becomes a separate colony of Australia.

·       Brisbane becomes the capital of the new colony

·       Napoleon III assists the Italian statesman Cavour in a war against Austria.

·       Ferdinand de Lesseps begins building the Suez Canal in Egypt.

·       Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

Latest News

S5 Box