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Gold found in the Australian Northern Territory in the 19th century

Ricardolindo

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What if gold had been found in the Australian Northern Territory in the 19th century, instead of the 20th century? Would it be more populous and populated than in our timeline? Would it be a state?
 

Ricardolindo

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... It was? The Pine Creek gold rush in NT started in 1871.
I didn't know that. I was basing myself on https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-No...an-Collins-56?ch=99&share=2660db06&srid=hiT2a, that tries to explain why the Northern Territory is less populous and populated than the rest of Australia and mentions that large deposits of gold were not found there until the 20th century. So, rephrasing the question: What if large deposits of gold had been found in the Australian Northern Territory in the 19th century, instead of the 20th century?
 

Magniac

Heh, 4 or so blocks north, that's interesting
... It was? The Pine Creek gold rush in NT started in 1871.
Yup, gold rushes everywhere on our continent in the 19th century.

Big, sustainable, permanent demographic changing gold rushes, not so much.

Now, an NT gold reef find capable of spurring white settlement numbers in the same league as Western Australia between 1891 and 1901 (WA's colonist population increased by roughly 135,000 in a decade thanks to those rushes), that has some major knock-on effects, even if the inflow is only temporary and the digger settlements become ghosttowns within a generation.

Fwiw, I'm looking at the average weather figures for Brownsville, Texas, as a baseline for small enterprise, hot climate Anglo-European colonist settlement in this era, and of the notable towns in the NT, Tennant Creek tracks the closest (though it is hotter for longer, on average, and not quite as 'cool' as Brownsville gets in winter). Water is a major problem though, with the dry season in that part of the actual outback being very dry.

Oh, it also matters that the distances are quite huge up there between historical towns; Tennant Creek to Katherine is easily greater than the distance from the WA goldfields to the seaport of Fremantle on the Indian Ocean, or to Esperance on the south coast of Western Australia. And from Katherine to the seaport of Darwin is still almost as long a trip as Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie to Esperance.
 

Ricardolindo

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Yup, gold rushes everywhere on our continent in the 19th century.

Big, sustainable, permanent demographic changing gold rushes, not so much.

Now, an NT gold reef find capable of spurring white settlement numbers in the same league as Western Australia between 1891 and 1901 (WA's colonist population increased by roughly 135,000 in a decade thanks to those rushes), that has some major knock-on effects, even if the inflow is only temporary and the digger settlements become ghosttowns within a generation.

Fwiw, I'm looking at the average weather figures for Brownsville, Texas, as a baseline for small enterprise, hot climate Anglo-European colonist settlement in this era, and of the notable towns in the NT, Tennant Creek tracks the closest (though it is hotter for longer, on average, and not quite as 'cool' as Brownsville gets in winter). Water is a major problem though, with the dry season in that part of the actual outback being very dry.

Oh, it also matters that the distances are quite huge up there between historical towns; Tennant Creek to Katherine is easily greater than the distance from the WA goldfields to the seaport of Fremantle on the Indian Ocean, or to Esperance on the south coast of Western Australia. And from Katherine to the seaport of Darwin is still almost as long a trip as Kalgoorlie or Coolgardie to Esperance.
I don't think the weather is too important. As the Quora answer that I linked to mentions, Saudi Arabia and Papua New Guinea have higher population densities than Australia.
 

Magniac

Heh, 4 or so blocks north, that's interesting
Fwiw, I'm looking at the average weather figures for Brownsville, Texas, as a baseline for small enterprise, hot climate Anglo-European colonist settlement in this era
I should clarify, in particular I'm now thinking of Brownsville from during the American Civil War blockade, as the peacetime economics of moving supplies via stagecoaches, bullock- and camel- trains, into the interior of even the most superprofitable gold rush altTerritory, should be comparable to the literal punitive imposts on settler populations at war in malaria country.
I don't think the weather is too important. As the Quora answer that I linked to says, Saudi Arabia and Papua New Guinea have higher population densities than Australia.
Thing is, for 19th century northern European groups, Northern Australia is more inhospitable for tropical and arid conditions than almost anywhere else non-empire building (if that's how we can define the difference between settler societies and other colonisers, i.e. the military-backed individual imperialists in the race for Africa) whites went to. The big outback towns that are much further south in Oz, like Broken Hill in NSW and those towns in the WA goldfields I mention above, they don't have as extreme a climate as most of the top end has (though they do have serious problems vis-a-vis access to drinking water.)

I think the Yukon is worse, though. But that's a low bar for moving these population groups around in that era.
 

Ricardolindo

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Location
Portugal
I should clarify, in particular I'm now thinking of Brownsville from during the American Civil War blockade, as the peacetime economics of moving supplies via stagecoaches, bullock- and camel- trains, into the interior of even the most superprofitable gold rush altTerritory, should be comparable to the literal punitive imposts on settler populations at war in malaria country.

Thing is, for 19th century northern European groups, Northern Australia is more inhospitable for tropical and arid conditions than almost anywhere else non-empire building (if that's how we can define the difference between settler societies and other colonisers, i.e. the military-backed individual imperialists in the race for Africa) whites went to. The big outback towns that are much further south in Oz, like Broken Hill in NSW and those towns in the WA goldfields I mention above, they don't have as extreme a climate as most of the top end has (though they do have serious problems vis-a-vis access to drinking water.)

I think the Yukon is worse, though. But that's a low bar for moving these population groups around in that era.
I know you wrote "Northern Europeans" but we should remember that the Spaniards and the Portuguese managed to settle tropical and arid areas of the Americas. Yes, I know that Spain and Portugal are warmer than Northern Europe but their climates are still far more similar to those of Northern Europe than to tropical and arid climates. Thus, if there's gold, I don't think the British settlers would have much difficulty settling the area.
 

SenatorChickpea

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You may be wrong.This was a time when it was the scientific near-consensus of the Australasian colonies that Northern Queensland could not be permanently settled by Europeans lest they racially degenerate from the heat and adversity, and that was a much more lenient climate than the Territory.

Even if you overcome the climate, the sheer distance to the goldfields will be a huge problem. You can't simply trek overland and wait for infrastructure to develop behind you like some grossly simplified version of the 49ers- there's no damn water, which means that you can't create a string of small settlements that act as a route to the coast.

How will you feed these mining towns? How will you get them water? How will you get gold back to Darwin?
 

Magniac

Heh, 4 or so blocks north, that's interesting
I know you wrote "Northern Europeans" but we should remember that the Spaniards and the Portuguese managed to settle tropical and arid areas of the Americas. Yes, I know that Spain and Portugal are warmer than Northern Europe but their climates are still far more similar to those of Northern Europe than to tropical and arid climates. Thus, if there's gold, I don't think the British settlers would have much difficulty settling the area.
Yes. Though it really does come down to how large the gold reserves are; I'm trying to find the figures, but my gutfeeling is you need an NT goldrush that is based off diggings-and-profits comparable in size to what WA had in the 1890s. AFAIK OTL's Pine Creek rush was nowhere near as large.

Fun fact, Pine Creek's weather average track almost identically with Merida, the capital of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsular. Katherine is very similar, though with slightly lower lows.

You may be wrong.This was a time when it was the scientific near-consensus of the Australasian colonies that Northern Queensland could not be permanently settled by Europeans lest they racially degenerate from the heat and adversity, and that was a much more lenient climate than the Territory.
Though Queensland did have enough settlement above Brisbane in the 19th century that it took until quite recently for the SouthEast of the state to become the dominant population hub that greatly outweighs Central, North and Far North Qld.

Cooktown was where the northernmost goldrush in Qld was (at the same time as the NT's rush). For comparison;
NT&FNQrushes.JPG

Even if you overcome the climate, the sheer distance to the goldfields will be a huge problem.
It's patently obvious that the appreciably worse climate in Pine Creek is made much worse by not having easy sea access, unlike Cooktown right on the coast.

You can't simply trek overland and wait for infrastructure to develop behind you like some grossly simplified version of the 49ers- there's no damn water, which means that you can't create a string of small settlements that act as a route to the coast.

How will you feed these mining towns? How will you get them water? How will you get gold back to Darwin?
It's worth considering that the minor gold works and the pastoral sector did inspire this in the 1880s, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Australia_Railway

And the water is there in the NT to sustain larger-than-OTL pop growth, from south of Tennant Creek, right through to the coast.

But it's seasonal.

How big a gold rush in the interior do you need for a nineteenth century Burdekin-Dam-to-Lake-Argyle sized project, and associated channels/aquaducts/pipelines on one or more of the NT's river catchment areas?

That said, the WA goldfields didn't have a wet season with which to stock a dam full of water, so their great infrastructure project was this, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldfields_Water_Supply_Scheme

According to these wikipedia articles, that project cost more than twice a much as was budgeted for the Darwin to Pine Creek railroad a decade earlier. And that WA water supply project was begun when the eastern states were in an economic depression, so the capital for it would have come at a higher premium, all up.
 

SenatorChickpea

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Excellent post @Magniac. You're of course right to note that settlement of North Queensland was possible even then, but I was making the point that even while that process was on going even many Queenslanders doubted its long term viability- so how much greater would the reluctance be to try for mass settlement in the interior?

Also, yes, I exaggerated the dearth of water. I got carried away there.

The note about capital is a good one. I'm not sure if investors would back such a project before the 1890s, when the colonies were generally booming and you could get far greater return from apparently safer ventures in established markets. And after the early 1890s when the depression really hits, there's no capital to invest anyway. And after that we're out of scope of the OP.
 

SinghSong

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Apologies in advance if this constitutes necroing a 'dead thread', but regarding the settlement and colonization of the Northern Territory in the 19th century, and where all of those colonists would've come from- how about from here?
In our timeline, the British elected to establish their new penal colony, for the Indian mutineers involved in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, on the Andaman Islands- transporting an estimated 13-20,000 prisoners to the Convict Settlement, also known as the "British gulag", between 1858 and 1864; of which almost half had already died by mid-1864, with an observed death rate of c.7-10% per annum, and with only 45 prisoners out of the c.10,000 considered 'medically fit' by the camp's doctors. With no export products, and no means of income (other than the mass human testing of pharmaceutical drugs like quinine, which was forcibly fed to c.10,000 penal colonists in the 1970s) the Ross Island Penal Colony ran at a huge fiscal loss for the British.

So then, what if, rather than establishing the Convict Settlement for the Indian mutineers on the cramped, worthless, unproductive and unprofitable Andaman Islands, as they did in our timeline, they'd established it on the mainland up at the Top End of Australia instead? Given the climatological similarities between Darwin, NA:

And Chennai (/Madras), Tamil Nadu:


Along with that of Delhi, the epicenter of the Indian Rebellion:

It seems that they'd stand a far better chance in the Northern Territory than they did in the Andamans IOTL (where the primary killers, other than hard labor, were intense rain, malaria, pneumonia and dysentery, along with attacks from the extremely hostile, cannibalistic Andaman Aboriginals). The Indian crop package, particularly pulses and lentils, would be best suited to the climate and the environment (as nitrogen-fixing crops which can flourish in extremely nutrient-poor soils). And with the goldfields (and diamond fields, and cotton plantations later on) of the Top End, the Indian North Australian penal colony/ies could easily become just as profitable, or even more so, than the Tasmanian penal colony/ies they'd established, predominantly for the Irish Rebels and Home Rule Advocates, a few decades earlier. Though this could easily backfire on the British, since the Indian penal colonies at the Top End of Australia could easily wind up becoming too wealthy, populous and powerful for their liking, strengthening for calls for independence (both for India, and themselves)...
 

SinghSong

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Excellent post @Magniac. You're of course right to note that settlement of North Queensland was possible even then, but I was making the point that even while that process was on going even many Queenslanders doubted its long term viability- so how much greater would the reluctance be to try for mass settlement in the interior?

Also, yes, I exaggerated the dearth of water. I got carried away there.

The note about capital is a good one. I'm not sure if investors would back such a project before the 1890s, when the colonies were generally booming and you could get far greater return from apparently safer ventures in established markets. And after the early 1890s when the depression really hits, there's no capital to invest anyway. And after that we're out of scope of the OP.
Thing is, going back to the settlement of North Queensland- which attracted hundreds of thousands of ‘Kanakas’ and ‘Coolies’ to Australia in the first place- its long term viability was never in doubt. What was in doubt was its long term viability as a WHITE, Australian colonial settlement- with the majority non-white immigrant population of the settlements in Northern Queensland ramping up xenophobic white supremacist rhetoric among the still overwhelmingly white population of SE Australia, and eventually culminating in the White Australia policy being brought into effect in the first place.

The loudest objections to the anti-immigration policies which preceded the White Australia policy, which were implemented by all Australian colonies between 1875 and 1888 to exclude all further Melanesian, Chinese and Asian immigration, actually came from wealthy land owners in the tropical areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland, who’d argued that without Asiatics to work there, the area would have to be abandoned. Contemporary medical opinion held the tropics to be inherently and irredeemably unhealthy for the white race; ethnological science maintained that races outside their proper places risked degeneration, with British experience in other tropical countries espoused as proof to bear out these suppositions. North Queensland, and the rest of the Top End, were expected to develop along the lines of the plantation economies characteristic of other tropical colonies, with a minority of white people supervising a large 'coloured' workforce.

In the last decade of the nineteenth century though, this hierarchical social structure came under increasing challenge from the nationalist ideal of White Australia, according to which the entire continent should be peopled by whites only. Against the tenets of a white-dominated society, White Australia enthusiasts sought to reduce relationships of domination and subordination, and thereby "build a more egalitarian nation". Consistent with contemporary assumptions of inherent racial inequality, they insisted that racial diversity inevitably bred social discord and that social harmony demanded racial homogeneity. And as evidence of the malignant consequences of racial diversity, they often pointed to North Queensland, which was disparaged throughout the 1890s by the nationalist Bulletin magazine as ‘Queensmongreland’.

The White Australia doctrine became closely connected with the campaign for federation. After federation in 1901, White Australia became the guiding star of the nation. But there continued to be some who insisted that the White Australia policy could not apply to the north of the continent, where ’coloured’ labour offered the only viable means of economic development. And Aborigines didn’t even factor into debates over the racial destiny of the north, at least until the 1930s, in spite of the fact that the Aborigines comprised the principal workforce for the northern pastoral industry, since medical scientists who argued for the viability of white tropical settlement were virtually unanimous in claiming that Aborigines posed little threat since, unlike the indigenous peoples of other tropical lands, they did not constitute a reservoir of exotic diseases.

These scientists acknowledged that diseases were rife among Aborigines, but the flow of contagions was generally from Europeans (and Asians) to Aborigines, not, as was the case in other tropical lands, from the indigenes to the newcomers. Fears of contagion were still racialised in northern Australia, but for white newcomers, the feared sources of disease were other ‘coloured’ immigrants, especially the Indians and Chinese, not the original inhabitants. In any case, Aborigines could be left out of account since they were presumed to be fated to extinction in the near future, and weren’t even legally acknowledged by Australia as human beings (or counted as such in the Australian censuses) until 1961.

As such, if you go back to then, take a good look at the census figures and factor in the excluded Aboriginal population (of c.500–700k)- back in the early to mid 1870s, Australia had a total actual population of c. 2–2.5M, of which roughly 20–30% were still Aboriginal, 5–6% were predominantly Melanesian ‘Kanaka’ indentured laborers, and another 5-10% were Asian- with the Top End of Australia, especially Northern Queensland, standing out as majority non-white, and as having the fastest growing population of any region in Australia, with prevailing immigration trends at the time looking set to make it increasingly so.

Then, the anti-immigration acts were passed, restricting Chinese and other Asian immigration- which cut immigration to the Top End by more than 2/3rds, immediately resulting in net emigration for several decades, greatly hampering the growth of the Australian sugar industry and strangling the fledgling Australian cotton industry in its cradle (the first Australian cotton plantations, which had been established in N. Queensland in 1857, and had experienced a sustained boom in the early 1860s courtesy of the US Civil War, went bust immediately after the new restrictions were introduced, thanks to the loss of the majority of their labor. And the Australian cotton industry was only revived in 1926, with the establishment of the Queensland cotton marketing board- which was specifically inaugurated to promote industry growth in Central, not Northern Queensland, predominantly on the grounds that Northern Queensland still wasn't white enough for their liking).

So you see, there were many investors who DID back the project back then, before the 1890's. The main problem, which set alarm bells ringing and ramped Australian xenophobia up into high gear, was that a great number of these investors (c.10-15%) were Chinese investors- and that even the white investors who backed the project still overwhelmingly employed non-white laborers, both 'blackbirded' indentured laborers and willing migrants from Asia, much to the consternation of the trade unionists who protested against their wages being undercut by cheap non-white migrant labor, and fearmongered about these immigrants undermining Australia's extolled 'white racial purity'...
 
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Charles EP M.

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And with the goldfields (and diamond fields, and cotton plantations later on) of the Top End, the Indian North Australian penal colony/ies could easily become just as profitable, or even more so, than the Tasmanian penal colony/ies they'd established, predominantly for the Irish Rebels and Home Rule Advocates, a few decades earlier. Though this could easily backfire on the British, since the Indian penal colonies at the Top End of Australia could easily wind up becoming too wealthy, populous and powerful for their liking, strengthening for calls for independence (both for India, and themselves)...
Britain accidentally creating a wealthy majority-Asian colony in north Australia is one hell of an AH idea. (WHAT DOES THE FLAG LOOK LIKE??)
 

SinghSong

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Britain accidentally creating a wealthy majority-Asian colony in north Australia is one hell of an AH idea. (WHAT DOES THE FLAG LOOK LIKE??)
Thanks! Not sure about the flag though- hadn't gotten nearly that far in plotting this out. But the AH scenario does offer an eclectic cast of real-life main characters for the first part of the timeline, along with potential to heavily integrate the Aboriginal Australians as well from the beginning, and greatly improve their fate. After all, we know the list of the first group of 200 prisoners who were transported to the Ross Island Penal Colony (and who'd be getting transported to Northern Australia instead ITTL), under the control of Dr James Pattison Walker from Calcutta, who soon put the convicts on the arduous task of clearing the dense forest of Ross Island, building their own shelters and other buildings, and laying roads, with no food, clothing or shelter provided. And just over a month after their arrival, on the 23rd April 1858, 91 out of the 288 inmates managed to stage an escape- only to be savagely attacked by the Andaman Aboriginals, forcing them to flee back to the prison camp seeking medical help (with all 81 returnees summarily executed by hanging in a single day). JP Grant, the President in Council in Calcutta complained to the higher authorities, but Walker wasn't reprimanded, and emboldened by this, he fitted the remaining convicts at the Penal Colony with iron shackles, chains and identity-tagged neck collars, to prevent any further escapes.

But of the 10 escapees who'd managed to escape, and hadn't made it back to the prison camp, at least one of them was spared by the Andamanese people- Dudnath Tiwari, a political prisoner. He was absorbed into the aboriginal culture, married two of their girls, and learned their language. However, when the Andamanese were on the verge of mounting a massive surprise attack on the penal colony, on 16 May 1859, he ran away, betraying them to the British and secretly informing the Superintendent of the coming raid. And when the aboriginals attacked the camp with bows and arrows, in the "Battle of Aberdeen", the British were fully prepared, and were able to easily bring their superior weapons to bear, completely routing the natives. Though even this total victory resulted in a change of approach from the British to handle the local people: steps were initiated to seek peace with them, and a British officer was appointed to look after their welfare (a move which Dr Walker was reportedly deeply dissatisfied about; with 'Dr Death' finally deposed from his position of control over the penal settlement in early October 1859, after he suggested branding the convicts on their forearms with information of the crime and sentence that they had been given).

So then, just imagine how that would've panned out in Australia, with the original 91 escapees seeking refuge with the Aboriginals of Northern Australia instead, and with a far more vast, extensive expanse to escape into? Would they have been savagely attacked, and forced to flee back to the prison camp- or would the majority have been accepted into the Aboriginal tribes, resulting in a substantial cultural and technological exchange? How would Dr Walker have reacted if the escaped inmates had actually gotten away, rather than returning together on the next day? Given what we know of his character, wouldn't he have most likely doubled down on his brutality, as well as attempting to launch offensives against any local Aboriginal tribes who he suspected of harboring the escapees without delay, even in spite of his negligible manpower and limited military strength- which could've potentially invoked greater unity among the Aboriginal Australian tribes, and perhaps even the formation of an Aboriginal Australian (with the integrated escaped Indian convicts offering greater potential for inter-communication and unity) tribal alliance against colonial aggression? And if these hostilities invoked the same change of approach from the British, to handle the local people, as that they took in the Andamans with the Aboriginals IOTL- with steps initiated to seek peace with them and atone for Dr Walker's debacle, and a British officer immediately appointed to look after their welfare from this point onward- how much better could the Aborigines fare, in this Northern Australian colony, than they did in Australia IOTL? You have to wonder...
 
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