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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 1

I Groping In A Strange Environment: 1788-1851
i The land and its resources
ii Aboriginal use of resources
iii The arrival of Europeans with their technology
iv Technological adaption for human survival
v Technological adaption for economic survival

II Farmers Take The Initiative: 1851-1888

III Enter Education And Science: 1888-1927

IV Agricultural Science Pays Dividends: 1927-1987

V Examples Of Research And Development 1928-1988

VI International Aspects Of Agricultural Research

VII Future Prospects

VIII Acknowledgements



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The arrival of Europeans with their technology

In 1787 the British Government sent a party of nearly 1,500 people to Botany Bay in New South Wales; nearly half were convicts, while the remainder were marines to guard them and seamen to man the ships. The fleet was under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip, who had instructions to found a convict settlement on arrival. It was not a momentous event as far as the British were concerned and preparations for the settlement had not been well planned. No person skilled in agriculture had been specifically included to guide the new settlers in their crop and livestock husbandry.

Arriving at Botany Bay in January 1788, the First Fleet moved after a few days to the more impressive harbour at Port Jackson, where the ships were unloaded at Sydney Cove. More convicts were to follow and in 1793 the first free settlers arrived. In the same year the Governor was given permission to grant land to civil and military officers in the colony. Further convict settlements were begun in Tasmania in 1803 and in Queensland in 1823, while free settlers began occupying Western Australia in 1829, Victoria in 1834 and South Australia in 1836. By 1851, just before the discovery of gold, the European population of the Australian colonies had reached 405,000.[4]

The initial British settlement of Australia took place at a time when there was considerable interest in agricultural improvement and experimentation in Great Britain. This movement was led by the large landowners but even small independent farmers were involved. It was the time when Robert Bakewell (1726-1795) was demonstrating how livestock could be bred for a specific commercial purpose using selection and a certain degree of inbreeding, and Arthur Young (1741-1820) was touring the country and publicising through his writings the latest improvements and ideas in agriculture. For the first time the government, too, was seeking to promote agriculture and to encourage better farming practices. The Board of Agriculture was established in 1793 and Arthur Young was appointed to be its first secretary. Under his supervision the well-known reports for the Board of Agriculture were published which described in detail the best farming practices in each county. Carefully integrated systems of crop and livestock husbandry were outlined, in which attention was given to the maintenance of soil fertility through the folding of sheep on arable land, the use in rotations of leguminous pastures and crops, and the application of farmyard manure, town waste, marl and lime. Newly developed implements and recently constructed irrigation systems were described and the advantages of new fodder and grain crops and pasture species were discussed.

King George III shared this enthusiasm for agricultural improvement and one of his particular interests was Merino sheep. Towards the end of the eighteenth century the finest wool came from Spain and two-thirds of Spanish wool exports went to England. Spain had tried to prevent the export of its Merino sheep but small numbers had reached Sweden, Saxony, Austria and France between 1723 and 1786. The English obtained their first Spanish Merinos in 1785 when Sir Joseph Banks imported two from a flock in France. Then, in 1788, the King, with the aid of Sir Joseph Banks, founded a flock at Windsor consisting of 44 Merinos from France and two ewes and two rams smuggled out of Spain. During the next four years a further 144 Merinos were brought out of Spain for the royal flock and then, during the Napoleonic invasion of Spain, the Spanish Junta gave the King gifts of 2,000 carefully selected Paular Merinos in 1808 and a similar number of Negretti Merinos in 1809. From 1791 to 1799 the King presented his surplus Merinos to selected sheep breeders and thereafter he auctioned them so that a wider range of breeders could experiment with them. There was much interest in southern England in these sheep, particularly in their potential for crossing with local breeds to give finer wool on animals which still retained good commercial carcass characteristics. The Anglo-Merino, however, was a transient phenomenon of the years from 1788 to the 1830s and, although a Merino Society had been formed in 1811 and was still active in 1820, by about 1849 interest in the breed had waned and few flocks of pure Merinos remained in Britain.[5]

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