Melbourne, Australia


Thanks to the discovery of gold in the country-side outside Melbourne in the early 1850s, Melbourne grew during this decade from a small provincial port to a bustling self-supporting city. Not only did hopeful young men venture hence on their way to the gold fields, but enterprising merchants, labourers and artisans flocked to the town in their thousands, seeing the opportunity to start a new and prosperous life. During the early part of the decade, many succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, but later, thanks to the labour market being swollen by disillusioned young men returning from the gold fields, unemployment was rife and the cost of living extremely high. The union movement, having been so successful in establishing the 8 hour day in 1856, was crippled, with their members having to accept appalling wages and conditions or else lose their jobs. At the same time, a number of civic works were going on in the city. The zoological gardens were established, along with the botanical gardens, and a university and public library. The first railways were being built, and the city was growing at what seemed to some to be an alarming rate, with public auctions of state-owned land being held at regular intervals.