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gold rushes


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Sudden influxes of people to newly discovered gold fields. The most famous gold rush was to California, where in 1848 gold was found by a Swiss settler, J. A. Sutter. As news spread, adventurers from all over the world made for California. Hard-drinkers and gamblers, the ‘forty-niners’ created an archetypal saloon society, where more fortunes were made from speculation in land and goods than from gold. The second great rush was to Australia, where gold was first found near Bathurst in New South Wales in 1851 and later in Victoria at Bendigo and Ballarat, the richest alluvial gold field ever known. A ten-year boom brought diggers back across the Pacific from the declining California field, as well as from Britain, where Cornish tin-mining was declining. The population of Victoria rose from 97,000 to 540,000 in the years 1851–60. Later rushes were to New Zealand (1860), to North Australia, Alaska, Siberia, and South Africa (1880s), and to Klondike in Canada and Kalgoorlie in West Australia (1890s). The most important was probably to Witwatersrand, South Africa, in 1886, where the influx of loose-living miners (Uitlanders or outlanders) precipitated political tensions, which led to the Second Boer War.

Subjects: Australasian and Pacific History.


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