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The Australian National University

The gold rushes and Australian English

A resource for researchers, teachers and students

These documents are from Victorian newspapers in the early 1850s. They are a product of the Australian National Dictionary Centre's research into Australian English.

The publishing of these documents on the Internet marks a significant new direction for the Australian National Dictionary Centre. The Centre is part of the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences. Its director, Bruce Moore, offers a course on Australian English. The documents are used as part of the course. Yet they will also be of interest to a much wider community. The purpose of this publishing venture is to make some of our research material publicly available.

The material will be of interest to social historians, but it will be of special interest to teachers and students. Many schools, for example, study the gold rushes as part of their history programs, and the documents provide useful material for class exercises and discussion. The newspapers provide vibrant first-hand accounts of the effects of the discovery of gold on Australian society. They also provide accounts of the difficulties of getting to the goldfields, detailed descriptions of life on the goldfields, and information about social problems associated with the goldfields (gambling, illegal selling of alcohol, robberies, etc).

The documents are intended to encourage students to do their own work with source material. For example, they provide evidence for exercises of the following kind:

  1. What evidence do these documents provide of the effects of the gold rushes on Australian society in the early 1850s?
  2. What difficulties did the diggers encounter in trying to get to the goldfields?
  3. What difficulties did the diggers encounter on the goldfields?
  4. What kinds of social problems were produced by the gold rushes?
  5. What kinds of people became diggers?

These documents were produced as part of the research program which led to Bruce Moore's Gold! Gold! Gold! The Language of the Nineteenth-Century Australian Gold Rushes, (Oxford University Press 2000). They are most usefully used in combination with this book. The book is in the form of a dictionary, with illustrative quotations from texts. Many of the terms students will encounter in the documents are explained in the book. An interesting class exercise would be to choose a number of terms, and to find passages in the documents which illustrate their usage.

The documents in their Web form are copyrighted to the Australian National Dictionary Centre. Permission to copy them is granted, as long as the following acknowledgment is given: This material is provided by the Australian National Dictionary Centre, a joint project of The Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia.

Here are the documents:

  1. Glimmers
  2. Discoveries
  3. Rush
  4. Roads
  5. Trials
  6. Rewards
  7. Life (trials)
  8. Life (lighter)
  9. Effects
  10. Reflections
  11. Licensing
  12. Political
  13. Advertisements

Updated: 3 March 2011/ Responsible Officer:  Centre Director / Page Contact:  Web Publisher