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1860s Summary

The 1860s was dominated by the struggles of 'selectors' (small-scale land holders) and goldminers to persuade the government to wrest control of land from the squatters, people who had occupied large areas of Crown land under license or lease, and to make Crown land available for farming.

There is separatism and parochialism as each colony adopts different railway gauges and tariff policies, making intercolonial communication and trade difficult. Common to all, however, is a growing demand by settlers and newcomers for land. This is often frustrated, not only by the intractable nature of the country, but also by the malpractices of squatters.   The selectors faced continued resistance from the squatters who found ways to retain the best and most fertile lands for themselves. This demand for land ignited interest in expeditions to explore the regional and remote parts of the continent in order to find rich pastures for farming, clean and fast-flowing waters for the establishment of the Overland Telegraph Line, and better routes between the colonies.

Explorers such as John McDouall Stuart (18151866) and Burke and Wills led expeditions to discover arable land and to map routes between settlements. The crossing of the continent for the first time was a dangerous and at times fatal quest.

There was a steady flow of immigrants during the decade. The free settler migrants were matched by the forced slavery of South Pacific Islanders, Torres Strait Islanders and Papua New Guineans, who were collectively referred to as 'Kanakas' in the 19th century. (The term 'Kanaka' is no longer used.) They were often kidnapped from their homes to work on the sugarcane farms in northern Queensland. Robert Towns (17941873), after whom Townsville was named, was a trader who used the South Pacific Islanders to clear the rainforests and establish agricultural industries, especially sugar cane in Queensland. Cameleers from areas such as India, Iran, Egypt and Turkey came voluntarily to work in the Northern Territory and South Australia, delivering stores and equipment to some of the remotest parts of the continent.

As a legacy of the troubles on the goldfields in the 1850s, each colony introduced legislation limiting the number of Chinese people entering their colony.

The Victorian Parliament passed the Aboriginal Protection Act in1869 to establish the Aboriginal Protection Board. Victoria became the first colony to legislate for a comprehensive scheme to regulate the lives of Aboriginal people.

Sporting events such as the Melbourne Cup were established. An Indigenous cricket team was the very first sporting team to tour overseas, performing well against the English cricket team.


·       John McDouall Stuart reaches the Centre of Australia.

·       Italian patriot Garibaldi invades Sicily and Naples with his 1,000 Redshirts.

·       Sardinia-Piedmont seizes the Papal States in Italy.

·       China resists the Tientsin Treaty; Anglo-French forces occupy Peking.

·       The Maori Wars begin against the British in New Zealand.

·       Abraham Lincoln is elected as the first Republican president of the United States.

·       South Carolina becomes the first Southern state to secede from the Union.

·       The pony express is inaugurated to deliver mail from Missouri to California.

·       Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir patents the first internal-combustion engine.

·       Florence Nightingale establishes a school for training nurses.


·       Explorers Burke and Wills die during their north-south crossing of Australia.

·       Italy is unified under Victor Emmanuel II.

·       Nicholas II abolishes serfdom in Russia.

·       Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th U.S. president; Hamlin becomes vice-president.

·       The Southern states meet to draft a constitution; Davis is selected as president.

·       The Confederate States of America declare their independence from the U.S.

·       The bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor begins the U.S. Civil War.

·       The United States introduce the first national income tax.

·       John Ericsson designs the Monitor, the first ship with a revolving gun-turret


·       Explorer John McDouall Stuart makes the first south to north crossing of Australia.

·       William I appoints Otto von Bismarck as minister president of Prussia.

·       Napoleon III imposes the Austrian prince Maximilian as emperor of Mexico.

·       Richard J. Gatling invents the first practical machine gun.

·       French actress Sarah Bernhardt makes her debut at the Comedie Francaise.

·       French writer Victor Hugo completes his social novel Les Miserables.


·       Cambodia (Kampuchea) becomes a French protectorate.

·       The French occupy Mexico City in support of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico.

·       Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation abolishes slavery in the Confederate states.

·       London's Metropolitan Railway becomes the first underground subway

·       The London Football Association issues the first soccer rules.


·       Denmark is defeated by Prussia; Schleswig-Holstein is ceded to Germany.

·       A Chinese army under Gordon recaptures Nanking and ends the Taiping Rebellion.

·       The Ionian Islands are ceded to Greece by Britain.


·       Confederate forces under Lee surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House.

·       Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C

·       Andrew Johnson becomes the 17th President of the U.S.

·       The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery.

·       English author Lewis Carroll writes Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

·       Count Leo Tolstoi begins his monumental Russian novel War and Peace.


·       Prussia and Italy defeat Austria in the Seven Weeks' War.

·       The Ku Klux Klan is founded in the southern United States

·       British engineer Robert Whitehead invents the first self-propelled torpedo.

·       Congress authorize (but do not mandate) the use of the metric system in the U.S.


·       French troops withdraw from Mexico; Emperor Maximilian is executed by Juarez.

·       Bismark forms the North German Confederation under Prussian leadership.

·       The Compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867 creates the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

·       The Dominion of Canada is established by the British North America Act.

·       Sir John A. Macdonald becomes Canada's first prime minister.

·       Diamond fields are discovered in South Africa.

·       Karl Marx publishes the first volume of Das Kapital.


·       William Gladstone becomes Liberal prime minister of Britain for the first time.

·       A military coup led by General Juan Prim deposes Queen Isabella II of Spain.

·       The Ten Years' War begins in Cuba against Spanish rule.

·       Chulalongkorn succeeds his father Mongkut as the king of Siam (Thailand).

·       Ndebele king Mzilikazi dies in Africa; he is succeeded (1870) by his son Lobengula.

·       British labor unions form the Trades Union Congress.

·       Christopher Sholes patents the first practical typewriter.

·       Feminists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton publish Revolution.


·       John Forrest leads an expedition to search for Leichard

·       The Suez Canal is opened in Egypt

·       Louis Riel leads the Red River Rebellion in Canada.

·       The transcontinental railroad is completed at Promontory Point, Utah, USA

·       Philadelphia garment workers organize the Knights of Labor, an early labor union.

·       Pope Pius IX calls the First Vatican Council to discuss the dogma of papal infallibility.

·       James Gordon Bennett Jr. commissions Stanley to search for Livingston in Africa.

·       The first manufacturing patent is issued for chewing gum

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