History of Australia and New Zealand

History of Australia and New Zealand

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The history of Australia and New Zealand began with the arrival of aboriginal Australians by sea from maritime Southeast Asia some 50,000- 65,000 years ago. The artistic, musical and spiritual traditions that they created are among the oldest surviving traditions in human history.

The first arrival in Australia of Europeans was in 1606 by Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon. Later that year, Spanish explorer Luís Vaz de Torres navigated the treacherous Torres Strait that separates Australia from New Guinea. By the close of the 17th century, twenty-nine other Dutch navigators had explored the west and south coasts, and they named the continent New Holland. Other European explorers followed. Lieutenant James Cook (“England’s Great Navigator”) charted the east coast of Australia in 1770. Upon his return to London, he persuaded the Crown to consider establishing a colony at Botany Bay (now in Sydney).

Accordingly, the First Fleet from Britain arrived in Australia in January, 1788 to establish a penal colony at Botany Bay. The British established other colonies in Australia, and European explorers ventured into the forbidding interior. In the course of their contact with the colonists, aboriginal Australians were greatly weakened and their population decimated by European disease and conflict.

Gold brought gold rushes, while agriculture and ranching brought more consistent prosperity. Parliamentary democracy grew throughout the six British colonies in Australia from the mid-19th century, and they voted to form a federation in 1901. With that, modern Australia came into being. Australia fought alongside Britain in World Wars I and II, and became an ally of the United States when threatened with invasion by Japan during World War II. Since then, New Zealand has steadily grown prosperous, in large part from trade with Asia and immigration that has added more than 7 million migrants from origins worldwide.

New Zealand was discovered and settled some 700 years ago by Polynesians. Their indigenous Māori culture was based on communal ownership of land and kinship ties. The first European explorer, Abel Tasman, arrived in New Zealand in 1642. After that, explorers, sailors, missionaries, traders and low-life adventurers frequented New Zealand. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed (under dubious circumstances) between Britain and some of the Māori chiefs. The treaty flummoxed New Zealand into being absorbed by the British Empire, in which the Māori would supposedly enjoy the same rights as other British subjects. But most of New Zealand’s land passed from Māori to European ownership by means both fair and foul, and the Māori nation was left nearly destitute and landless. Extensive European and some Asian settlement ensued.

New Zealand has enacted a progressive social agenda, including the vote for women and old age pensions. The economy became highly regulated and it funded an extensive welfare state. Recently, Māori culture has experienced a renaissance, and Māori have moved into the cities in large numbers, where they lead a marginalized existence. But their grievances gave rise to a Māori protest movement that led to greater recognition of the rights guaranteed by the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. The economy has since been largely deregulated and a number of socially liberal policies have been implemented. Foreign policy mostly followed the lead of Britain or the United States, but lately has become more independent. Subsequent governments have generally carried on these policies, but continue to temper free market forces in favor of a some aspects of a socialized economy.

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Early Pacific: Exploration | Australia: ExplorersAboriginesColonization: Settlement : New South Wales | New Zealand: MaoriExplorersSociety: Origins SettlementTreaty of Waitangi British SovereigntyColonial Period

Early Pacific

history of the Early Pacific

Early Pacific

early exploration of the Early Pacific

Early Pacific: Exploration


history of Australia


Australian aborigines

Australia: Aborigines

history of Australia | explorers

Australia: Explorers

history of Australia | colonization

Society: Colonization

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history of Australia | settlement

Colonization: Settlement

history of Australia | settlement of New South Wales

Settlement: New South Wales

New Zealand

history of New Zealand

New Zealand

history of New Zealand | explorers

New Zealand: Explorers


Society: Maori

history of New Zealand | origins

Society: Origins

Up to Index

history of New Zealand | settlement

Society: Settlement

Treaty of Waitangi

Power: Treaty of Waitangi

history of New Zealand | British sovereignty

Power: British Sovereignty

history of New Zealand | colonial period

Power: Colonial Period

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