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Australia as a British Penal Colony 1788-1823
Australia in Transition 1823-50
Maconochie's Penal Reforms
Australia Gold and Democracy 1851-75
Australia Reforms 1875-87
Australian Unions and Federation 1887-1900
White Australia United 1901-14
Australia in the Great War 1914-19
Australia Between Wars 1920-39
Australia and World War II 1939-49
The history of southern Asia and the southwest Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) from 1800 to 1950 tells us much about European imperialism. The British, the French, and the Dutch brought modern technology and advanced education with their trade that gave them military advantages, administrative skill, and capitalist leverage to exploit the natural resources, cheap labor, and populous markets of Asia. The Asians had ancient and sophisticated spiritual traditions in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Islam, but they were challenged by Christian missionaries and a more materialistic life-style. After much colonial exploitation in the 19th century, in the first half of the twentieth century liberation movements gradually developed. After a second great war broke out in Europe, imperial and modernized Japan moved aggressively into Southeast Asia and mercilessly exploited their people and resources by military force. After Japan’s defeat in 1945 these growing liberation movements struggled for independence as the Europeans tried to re-assert control over their previously held colonies. Thus these histories reveal the morally mixed influence of the Europeans and the development and modernization of southern Asia so that they could stand up to European domination and regain self-government in a more democratic way.
By 1800 the British were well on their way to taking control over the entire subcontinent of India. The British East India Company was using the British military to dominate various states in India and would annex many more before the great mutiny erupted in 1857. After that revolt was subdued, Queen Victoria proclaimed English sovereignty in India with some reforms. An Indian renaissance led to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885, a political movement that would lead the effort for self-government. When Viceroy Curzon partitioned the province of Bengal in 1905, the revolution began. Using primarily nonviolent methods, India’s struggle for freedom eventually gained complete independence in 1947. The story of Mahatma Gandhi leading India’s nonviolent movement for liberation is one of the most inspiring and important episodes in the history of the world, for it offers an increasingly violent world a better method for resolving conflicts in the modern age.
The 13th Dalai Lama (r. 1895-1933) helped Buddhist Tibet stave off encroachments from the Chinese, who took over Tibet in 1950. The Hindu kingdom of Nepal maintained an alliance with the British without losing their independence. Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was a colony of the British, but it also gained its independence after World War II.
The history of Southeast Asia during this era is a study of European colonialism. Buddhist Burma was taken over by the British in three stages in 1826, 1852, and 1885, and Malaya was also under the British. Only Siam managed to maintain an independent kingdom. Its monarchy was replaced by the socialism of Pridi in 1932 and was renamed Thailand in 1939, but it slid into a military regime despite Pridi’s efforts.
Cambodia and Laos were caught between Siam and Vietnam and became a part of French Indochina. Vietnam had Confucian kings in the first half of the 19th century, but the French conquered all of Vietnam by 1885. Freedom fighters continued to resist, and a more intellectually led revolution began in 1907. Ho Chih Minh and the Communist party challenged the exploitation of the French capitalists. Japan invaded Vietnam in July 1941 and let the Vichy French govern until March 1945. In August the Viet Minh declared independence, and in 1946 the long Vietnam War began against French colonialism.
The Netherlands East Indies was exploited by the Dutch, who, like the British in India and the French in Vietnam, took immense amounts of wealth back to Europe by their economic policy of mercantilism. Once again as people became more educated, an independence movement developed; but in 1933 Sukarno was sent into exile for nine years. The Dutch were interned by the Japanese in 1942, and after the war the Indonesians led by Sukarno attained complete independence in a revolution against Dutch colonial rule.
Sparsely populated Australia was used as a British penal colony; but after the gold rush began in 1851 it developed into a thriving democracy within the British empire. “White Australia” neglected the rights of the Aborigines and excluded Asians but prospered economically. The British also conquered the Maoris in New Zealand, which gradually became one of the most progressive nations in the world with its liberal policies.
In our current global culture I hope that readers will want to learn more about the history and ethics of these countries in an era of dramatic conflicts and social development.