1900s Summary

After the class conflict and economic division of the 1890s, the 1900s saw a genuine desire to ensure that such problems never arose in Australia again. After Federation in 1901, new laws were passed to ensure that disputes between workers and employers were settled fairly at an Arbitration tribunal.

Under the Australian Constitution, the Commonwealth Government had the power to make laws for all Australians excluding Indigenous peoples, who were left in the control of the states and were not counted in the Commonwealth census.

Simultaneously, a series of other progressive initiatives were achieved: women gained the right to vote and stand for parliament; pensions for the elderly and invalids were instituted.

In 1906, the 'New Protection' legislative law was passed. New Protection dominated the work of the newly formed Commonwealth Parliament. The law was a major policy direction of that Parliament's social engineering. In common with other newly created countries, the Commonwealth of Australia sought to determine the type of society it wished to be and to implement policies towards that end, such as the so-called White Australia Policy. The society envisioned was that of an affluent white society. This policy had serious consequences for existing Indigenous and ethnic groups in the country or wanting to immigrate.  

In December 1902, Brisbane was accorded city status.

Although now 'Australian' by geography, many people still thought of themselves as British. This was exemplified by popular children's books such as Deeds that Won the Empire by WH Fitchett.


  • Chinese nationalists besiege foreigners in Peking during the Boxer Uprising.
  • The British defeat the Boer (Afrikaner) armies in South Africa and occupy Pretoria.
  • The Boers begin a guerrilla war against the British occupation forces.
  • Humbert I is assassinated; he is succeeded by Victor Emanuel III as king of Italy.
  • British politician Keir Hardie helps to found the Labour party.
  • Max Planck formulates the quantum theory in physics.
  • Dutch physiologist Willem Einthoven invents the electrocardiograph.
  • The U.S. wins the first Davis Cup tennis contest.


  • Australian Federation
  • John Forrest a member of the Federal Parliament, he promoted a railroad from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
  • Britain incorporates Ashanti territory into the Gold Coast (Ghana).
  • Queen Victoria dies; she is succeeded by her son Edward VII.
  • 1902
  • The Treaty of Vereeniging ends the South African War.
  • French filmmaker Georges Melies produces A Trip to the Moon.


  • Vladimir Ilich Lenin organizes the Bolshevik revolutionary group.
  • Panama declares its independence from Columbia; the U.S. recognizes the new republic.
  • The U.S. acquires perpetual control over the Panama Canal Zone.
  • Colonel Francis Younghusband leads a British military expedition into Tibet.
  • Emmeline Pankhurst founds the Women's Social and Political Union in Britain.
  • Alexander, King of Serbia, is assassinated; he is succeeded by Peter I.
  • The Rolls-Royce automobile company is founded in Britain.
  • Orville Wright makes the first successful flight in a self-propelled airplane.
  • Marie and Pierre Curie win the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on radioactivity.


  • A general strike and revolution begin in Russia; Nicholas II grants a constitution.
  • The union of Norway and Sweden is dissolved; Haakon VII is elected king of Norway.
  • Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen founds the T'ung-meng hui (Alliance Society).
  • French territorial ambitions spark the first Moroccan crisis.
  • The Sinn Fein Irish nationalist movement is founded by Arthur Griffith.
  • W.E.B. Du Bois forms the Niagara Movement to demand full civil rights for black Americans.
  • Ambrose Fleming invents the thermionic valve, used to improve radio reception.
  • German physicist Albert Einstein proposes his Special Theory of Relativity.
  • The Cullinan diamond is found in South Africa; it weighs 3,106 carats.


  • H.M.S. Dreadnought, the first modern battleship, is launched.
  • The San Francisco earthquake kills 700.
  • Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen traverses the Northwest Passage.


  • A Triple Entente is formed between Britain, France and Russia.
  • Rasputin gains influence at the court of Russian emperor Nicholas II.
  • The Panic of 1907 begins with the collapse of the U.S. stock market.
  • Lee De Forest invents the triode, a key component for amplifying radio signals.


  • King Leopold II of the Belgians establishes the Independent State of Congo in Africa.
  • Austria-Hungary annexes Bosnia and Hercegovina.
  • The Ford Motor Company produces the first Model T automobile.
  • Automaker William Durant founds the General Motors Company.
  • British soldier Robert Baden-Powell founds the Boy Scout movement.
  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.
  • Filmmakers Charles Pathe and Leon Gaumont produce the first newsreel.


  • American explorer Robert E. Peary reaches the North Pole.
  • French aviator Louis Bleriot makes the first flight across the English Channel.


  • Japanese forces annex Korea.
  • The Union of South Africa is formed; Louis Botha becomes the first prime minister.
  • France groups four African territories together as French Equatorial Africa.
  • George V succeeds his father Edward VII as king of Great Britain and Ireland.
  • British politician Winston Churchill is appointed first lord of the Admiralty.
  • German bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich synthesizes Salversan, a cure for syphilis.


  • The Ch'ing dynasty is deposed in China; a republic is formed under Sun Yat-sen.
  • Tibet declares its independence from China.
  • Italy's attempts to annex Cyrenaica and Tripolitania leads to the Italo-Turkish War.
  • Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reaches the South Pole ahead of Robert Scott.
  • Sir Ernest Rutherford formulates his theory of atomic structure.
  • Hans Geiger invents an electrical device to count individual alpha particles.
  • Willis Carrier designs the first practical air conditioning system.
  • American aviator Glen Curtiss flies the first successful seaplane.
  • The first film studio is established at Hollywood in California.


  • The Balkan League begins the first Balkan War against the Ottoman Empire.
  • British explorers under Scott reach the South Pole but die during their return.
  • The liner Titanic sinks after colliding with an iceberg on her maiden voyage.


  • King George I of Greece is assassinated; he is succeeded by Constantine I
  • Russian revolutionary Joseph Stalin is exiled to Siberia by the tsarist government.
  • The island of Crete is united with Greece.
  • The second Balkan War begins with a Bulgarian attack on Serbia.
  • Medical missionary Albert Schweitzer builds a hospital at Lambarene in Africa.
  • Federal income tax is introduced in the U.S.
  • Danish physicist Niels Bohr publishes his atomic theory.


  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated in Sarajevo, precipitating World War I.
  • President Wilson declares U.S. neutrality in World War I.
  • The Panama Canal is completed, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
  • Mack Sennett produces comedy films starring the Keystone Kops.
  • Charlie Chaplin develops his little tramp character in a series of slapstick films.
  • Parisian couturier Coco Chanel begins designing clothes.
  • A British expedition led by Ernest Shackleton is marooned in the Antarctic.


  • Anglo-French forces land at Gallipoli in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war.
  • A German submarine torpedoes the British liner Lusitania; 124 Americans are killed.
  • Serbia is overrun by the combined forces of Austria, Germany and Bulgaria.
  • Albert Einstein formulates his General Theory of Relativity.
  • ANZAC forces land at Gallipoli.


  • Allied forces withdraw from Gallipoli after strong Turkish opposition.
  • British forces assault the German line at the Somme; tanks are used for the first time.
  • The Easter Rising in Dublin is suppressed within a week by the British.
  • Lloyd George becomes prime minister of Britain's wartime coalition government.
  • Margaret Sanger is arrested for opening a birth-control clinic in Brooklyn.
  • North Sea storms flood lowlands in the Netherlands, 10,000 lives are lost.


  • Germany announces the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare.
  • The Russian Revolution begins; Emperor Nicholas II abdicates.
  • The Germans help Lenin return to Russia from exile in Switzerland.
  • The provisional Kerensky government is deposed; Bolsheviks seize power in Russia.
  • The Germans and the Bolshevik leaders sign an armistice at Brest-Litovsk.
  • The United States declares war on Germany.
  • Adoption of the convoy system reduces Allied losses to German submarines.
  • British forces attack the Germans in the Third Battle of Ypres.
  • T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) leads the Arab revolt against the Turks.
  • British forces under Allenby capture Jerusalem and Bagdhad from the Turks.
  • The Balfour Declaration endorses a Jewish national homeland in Palestine.


  • German air ace Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) is shot down and killed.
  • Advances by French, British and American armies force a general German retreat.
  • Revolution breaks out in Germany; Emperor William II flees to the Netherlands.
  • The Weimar Republic negotiates an armistice for Germany, ending World War I.
  • Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia, and his family are executed by the Bolsheviks.
  • Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky organizes the Red Army.
  • Civil war breaks out between the Red and White Russian armies.
  • Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia become republics in the aftermath of World War I.
  • An influenza pandemic begins (it kills 21-22 million in 2 years).
  • Women over 30 win the vote in Britain.
  • The world's largest telescope is installed at Mount Wilson Observatory.
  • American astronomer Harlow Shapley discovers the dimensions of the Milky Way.
  • An airmail service begins among New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.


  • The Paris Peace Conference opens at Versailles.
  • The League of Nations is formed with Geneva in Switzerland as its headquarters.
  • British troops massacre demonstrators at Amritsar in India.
  • The Polish-Soviet War begins over territorial disputes.
  • Italian leader Benito Mussolini organizes his Fascist movement.
  • The German fleet is scuttled at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.
  • Lady Astor becomes the first woman member of the British House of Commons.
  • Russian-American anarchist Emma Goldman is deported to the Soviet Union.
  • English aviators Alcock and Brown make the first nonstop transatlantic flight.


  • Adolf Hitler forms the National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) party.
  • German East Africa is transferred to British control as Tanganyika (now Tanzania).
  • British East Africa becomes a crown colony as Kenya.
  • Mahatma Gandhi begins a noncooperation campaign against British rule in India.
  • The 18th Amendment institutes the prohibition of alcohol throughout the U.S.
  • The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives women the right to vote.


  • The Reparations Commission fixes Germany's liability at 132 billion gold marks.
  • The Irish Free State becomes a self-governing dominion of Britain.
  • Alexander rules the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
  • The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is created by Royal Charter.


  • Egypt achieves independence from Britain and becomes a monarchy under Fuad I.
  • Mahatma Gandhi is imprisoned for civil disobedience in India.
  • The Fascists march on Rome; King Victor Emmanuel III names Mussolini prime minister.


  • French and Belgian troops occupy the Ruhr to enforce German war reparations.
  • Turkey is declared a republic; Ataturk Kemal becomes the first president.
  • Adolf Hitler's coup d'etat in Munich fails; he is captured and imprisoned.
  • Vladimir Zworykin patents the iconoscope, the first television transmission tube.
  • Filmmaker Cecil B. De Mille directs the biblical epic The Ten Commandments.


  • Ramsay MacDonald forms the first Labour government in Britain.
  • Soviet leader Lenin dies; new leader Joseph Stalin begins a purge of his opponents.
  • The military declare a republic in Greece; King George II is exiled.
  • Adolf Hitler publishes his Nazi political tract Mein Kampf (My Battle).
  • J. Edgar Hoover is appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation (renamed the FBI).


  • Clarence Birdseye begins marketing his quick-frozen food packages.


  • The General Strike breaks out in Britain involving 3 million workers.
  • Germany is admitted to the League of Nations.
  • Eamon De Valera organizes the Fianna Fail party in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Hirohito becomes emperor of Japan.
  • Chiang Kai-shek organizes the Northern Expedition to unite China.
  • Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett make the first airplane flight over the North Pole.
  • Nobile, Amundsen and Ellsworth pilot the airship Norge over the North Pole.


  • The Kellog-Briand Pact outlawing war is signed by 15 nations.
  • British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin.
  • Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse appears in Steamboat Willie, the first sound cartoon.
  • Chiang Kai-shek captures Peking; the Kuomintang government is established.
  • Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.


  • 1929†Soviet leader Joseph Stalin exiles Leon Trotsky.
  • 1929†The Lateran Treaty creates the independent state of the Vatican City.
  • 1929†Heinrich Himmler is appointed head of the SS, Hitler's blackshirted elite guard.


  • War breaks out in Europe


  • Melbourne selected to host 1956 Olympics
  • First uranium strike in Australia at Rum Jungle, NT
  • Australian population reaches 8 million
  • "Oklahoma!" plays in Australia



  • Melbourne hosts the Olympic Games


  • Civil war breaks out in Lebanon; U.S. Marines land at Beirut.†
  • Egypt and Syria form the United Arab Republic.
  • Mohamed Ayub Khan seizes control in Pakistan.
  • PM Hendrik Verwoerd extends South Africa's apartheid laws
  • Charles de Gaulle becomes President of France
  • Nikita Kruschev becomes sole Premier of USSR
  • Explorer 1 & 111 (US satellites
  • Pioneer 1, 11 & 111 (US moon probes)
  • US nuclear submarine Nautilus reaches the North Pole
  • First trans-Atlantic passenger jet service
  • First heart pacemaker
  • First stereo records†
  • Elvis Presley drafted
  • Pogo stick craze
  • Commonwealth Games in Cardiff

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