This book challenges the accepted view that the 1854 Ballarat Eureka Rebellion was the wellspring of democracy in Australia.
Marjorie Theobald’s latest book provides a new insight into the history of the Victorian goldfields. It challenges the accepted view of the 1854 Eureka Rebellion at Ballarat as the wellspring of Australian democracy and reinstates the men and women of the 1851 Monster Meeting at Chewton and the 1853 Red Ribbon movement in Bendigo as seminal in forcing Governor La Trobe to draw up the new democratic constitution well before Eureka.
The book recounts the social history of the first ten years of the Victorian gold rush that transformed nineteenth century colonial society from a squattocracy into a modern nation. It tells the stories of the new gold rush generation, those thousands of fiercely independent men and women who came looking for gold on the Mount Alexander field in 1851 and began a protest movement that kick-started the journey to parliamentary democracy in Victoria.
It reinstates women as central to life on the goldfields, challenges the view that the early alluvial miners were transient and wasteful in their search for gold and includes chapters on how the government and the diggers dealt with issues of law and order, the developing technology of alluvial mining and daily life of the diggings in basic camps with minimal medical services. Marjorie acknowledges the environmental devastation and destruction of Dja Dja Wurrung society caused by the alluvial mining, and poses questions about who benefitted from the wealth the gold brought to Victoria.
Dr. Marjorie Theobald is descended from several families who came to the gold rushes in central Victoria and stayed. She inherited her love of goldfields history from her father who was still sluicing for gold in the 1940s. After studies at University of Melbourne and Monash University, she became a secondary teacher and later joined the academic staff of Melbourne University, specialising in the history of education, before returning to Castlemaine in 2002 and shifting her focus to the history of the goldfields.