Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Settler Society in the Australian Colonies

Professor Angela Woollacott
Oxford University Press

Self-Government and Imperial Culture

Settler Society is a fresh look at the history of the Australian colonies from the 1820s to the 1860s, a foundational period when free settlers gradually overtook convicts, the colonies dramatically expanded their territorial control, and both settlers and officials had grand plans for colonial possibilities. Frontier violence shaped settlers' lives, while they depended on unpaid Aborigines and indentured Indians and Chinese for labour alongside that of convicts. The pivotal development of the 1840s-1850s, which forms the backbone of this story, was the Australian colonies' attainment of representative and then responsible government. Through political struggle and negotiation, in which Australians looked to Canada for their model of political progress, settlers slowly became self-governing. Colonial democracy was linked to ideas of manhood, but women's exclusion from politics was vigorously debated. Australian settlers were well aware of their place in a globally-expanding British Empire that was based on racial hierarchies and threatened by revolts.

Updated: 30 June 2015/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher