The coasts of Australia were first mapped by Dutch explorers in the 17th century and by the British in the 18th. In 1788, the British founded a colony in New South Wales and went on to settle the rest of this vast land.
From 1788 until 1852, the British sent criminals to Australia for punishment. The new country was built with forced labor. Free settlers were soon arriving also, to seek their fortune—especially after gold was discovered in 1851.
About two million Aboriginals lived in Australia in 1788. By 1900 only 50,000 survived. Many died of diseases introduced by the settlers. Others were murdered or driven off their land. Some worked as police trackers, or as laborers on sheep stations.
The various colonies founded in Australia by the British were mostly granted self-rule in the 1850s. There was great rivalry between them, but they finally agreed to unite as states within a single federal Commonwealth in 1901.
Captain Cook was a brilliant English navigator who explored the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. He landed at Botany Bay in New South Wales in 1778 and claimed the land for Britain. Cook was killed in Hawaii by natives of the islands.