Jun 1st 2018

Colonization of Australia

Content: The colonization of Australia which began in 1788 was very much similar to the history of American colonization. Apart from the settlers who voluntarily traveled to America, governments also used the colonies for keeping the prisoners. When the American Revolution started in 1776 and America stopped taking English prisoners, the British government started looking for a new place for its prisoners.

Britain had several reasons for colonization in Australia. It was an excellent option for British colonization as the country was an empty and untouched contingent which could be occupied without any opposition. While Dutch navigators already discovered many different parts of Australia even before the British Royal Navy reached the country, they never tried to settle there. When the British Navy first reached Australia in 1770, they saw that the land had native population; however, they proved largely docile and had no intention to resist British incursions. Thus began the colonization of Australia.

When was Australia colonized?

Captain James Cook, after a Pacific voyage of more than 2,000 miles, reached the east coast of Australia in 1770. He named the place Botany Bay and claimed its possession for the British Crown. When Captain Cook returned to Britain, his reports then inspired the British authorities to colonize this recently claimed territory.

With this new colony, the British Empire wanted to reduce the overcrowding of prisoners in their prisons, expand their empire, establish a base in South, and assert a claim to a territory against colonial powers. However, the British Government only got serious about Australia's colonization in 1788 when American colonies stopped taking their prisoners.

Who colonized Australia?

The British Empire colonized Australia in 1788. After 18 years from when Captain Cook's landfall, the British government started colonizing Botany Bay. In the American Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1783, Britain lost almost all of the North American colonies and it started searching for replacement territories.

It was then that Sir Joseph Banks, an eminent scientist, who was with Captain Cook when he first reached Australia in 1770 recommended Botany Bay as the replacement colony. Under the guidance of Sir Banks, James Matra, a Loyalist who also traveled with Captain Cook, created a proposal to establish a new settlement in Botany Bay.

How did Britain colonize Australia?

In his proposal, James Matra suggested that the American Loyalists, South Sea Islanders, Chinese and prisoners should establish a colony in Australia. After an interview with Lord Sydney in 1784, Matra amended the proposal and also added prisoners as settlers for this new colony. Sending prisoners to this new colony was an important economic reason for British colonization of Australia. With the deteriorating condition of Britain prisons, it was decided that the new colony in Australia would be used for convict settlement.

Then in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip, along with a fleet of 11 ships, 736 prisoners, crew, civilians and marines reached the Sydney Cove to begin Australia's colonization. In the following 10 years, it is said that the Australian indigenous population was reduced by as much as 90% due to a sudden wave of new diseases, acquisition of new settlers, and violent conflicts with colonizers.

Why did Britain colonize Australia?

While Britain had several reasons for colonization in Australia, the most important one was finding a settlement for the convicts. Around 1777, a lot of reformers and humanitarians started campaigning against the appalling conditions of the prisons in Britain. John Howard, a prison reformer, wrote 'The State of Prisons in England and Wales' and it exposed the failing condition of the British prison system.

The British Government had to quickly find a place to shift the prisoners and Australia seemed like an excellent option. In this initial report, Matra also mentioned a few economic reasons for British colonization of Australia, including the fact that the land in Australia would be ideal for cotton, tobacco and sugar plantations and the timber, hemp, and flax from New Zealand could also be valuable commodities. Moreover, it was also an excellent place to create a Pacific trade base.


Several years after British colonization of Australia, the territory started revealing a host of natural resources which included sapphires, opal, gold, iron, and coal. The early colonies then became far more useful than just a place to dump the prisoners. Soon, Australia became a popular place for voluntary immigration among people looking for a new start.

It is said that between 1851 and 1861, more than 500,000 people migrated to Australia from the UK alone. Even several years after colonization of Australia, a lot of incentives were been offered to people to move to Australia and it is only fairly recently that capping of immigration has been implemented.

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