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Map of the settled districts of South Australia, 1856

Date: 1856
Overall: 950 x 620 mm, 232.64 g
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Maps, charts and plans
Object Name: Map
Object No: 00048283

User Terms

    This folding map of South Australia shows the pattern of controlled land settlement radiating out from Adelaide established 20 years after the establishment of the colony of South Australia in 1836. Unlike colonies established earlier, South Australia was settled by free settlers and enjoyed a high degree of autonomy from the Colonial Office.
    SignificanceConveniently portable in size, folding maps became popular with the increasingly literate public of the nineteenth century. This 1856 map of South Australia is significant as a reflection of contemporary technology and literacy, and as a representation of land acquisition and management in the formative period of the colony of South Australia.
    HistoryThe first recorded European survey of part of the south coast of Australia was made in 1627 by Francois Thijssen and Pieter Nuyts in the Dutch ship GULDEN ZEEPARD (GOLDEN LEOPARD). This voyage produced a map which remained unaltered until James Grant's voyage in the LADY NELSON in 1800 provided new information. In 1802 Matthew Flinders in HMS INVESTIGATOR charted the south coast in great detail - finding the French explorer Nicolas Baudin at Encounter Bay undertaking the same work from the east, and by 1803 the coast of southern Australia was well defined.

    Following the discovery of Bass Strait and associated descriptions of rich seal colonies on the Bass Strait islands, parties of sealers soon began following the seals further west along the coast. From 1803 Kangaroo Island became a base for colonial sealing and whaling operations by merchants from Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales and shore-based sealing remained important until about 1840 when the whale fishery collapsed.

    The colony of South Australia was created by the South Australian Colonization Act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain in 1834, followed in February 1836 by the proclamation of the colony's boundaries. From its inception the colony was planned as a colony for free settlers and heavily influenced by the theoretical ideas of 'systematic colonisation' promoted by Edward Gibbon Wakefield. It was controlled by three organisations: The Colonial Office which provided government administration; a Board of Commissioners in London which controlled emigration and land sales until 1842; and the South Australian Company which represented particular London commercial interests.

    In December 1836 the site of the colony's capital was selected by Surveyor-General Colonel William Light on the Torrens River and named after Queen Adelaide. The first emigrants arrived a week later on the TAM O'SHANTER followed by the first governor, Captain John Hindmarsh in the BUFFALO at the end of the month.

    By 1850 the colony had expanded beyond the centre of Adelaide to the Adelaide Plains, Southern Vales, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and to Burra where rich deposits of copper had been discovered in 1845. By 1855 pastoral leases extended into the Flinders Ranges and on the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas.

    Although the Victorian gold rush initially resulted in an exodus of settlers from South Australia to Victoria, South Australian farmers and merchants benefitted by supplying the needs of the diggers. The colony was also supported by the activities of the Board of Commissioners which applied funds from the sale of land to finance an active emigration program. In 1855, 12,000 migrants (including 5,500 Irish orphan and pauper girls) were sent out. German migrants also made up a large proportion of the migrants to South Australia in the 1850s.

    (Information adapted from the Atlas of South Australia)

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