|Van Diemen's Land|
|British Crown Colony|
|Demonym||Van Diemonian usually spelt Vandemonian|
|o Type||Self-governing colony|
|Sir George Arthur first|
|Sir Henry Young last|
o independence from the Colony of New South Wales
|3 December 1825|
o Name changed to Tasmania and self-rule
|Today part of||Australia|
|Area||68,401 km2 (26,410 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||1,614 m (5295 ft)|
|Highest point||Mount Ossa|
|Largest settlement||Hobart Town|
|Pop. density||0.59/km2 (1.53/sq mi)|
|Ethnic groups||European Australians, Aboriginal Tasmanians|
Van Diemen's Land was a British crown colony on the island of Tasmania during the European exploration of Australia in the 19th century. A British settlement was established in Van Diemen's Land in 1803 before it became a separate colony in 1825. Its penal colonies became notorious destinations for the transportation of convicts due to the harsh environment, isolation and reputation for being inescapable. Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur are among the most well-known penal settlements on the island.
With the passing of the Australian Constitutions Act 1850, Van Diemen's Land (along with New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia) was granted responsible self-government with its own elected representative and parliament. On 1 January 1856 the colony of Van Diemen's Land was officially changed to Tasmania. The last penal settlement was closed in Tasmania in 1877.
The island is named in honour of Anthony van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies who had sent the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman on his voyage of discovery in the 1640s. Tasman was the first known European to land on the shores of Tasmania in 1642. After landing at Blackman Bay and later raising the Dutch flag at North Bay, Tasman named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt (Anthony Van Diemen's land) in his patron's honour.
The demonym for inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land was "Van Diemonian", though contemporaries used the spelling "Vandemonian". Anthony Trollope used the latter term; "They are (the Vandemonians) united in their declaration that the cessation of the coming of convicts has been their ruin."
In 1856, Van Diemen's Land was renamed Tasmania; removing the unsavoury link the name Van Diemen's Land had with its penal settlements (and the "demon" connotation). Tasmania was chosen as it honoured the explorer Abel Tasman, the first European to visit the island. Within 21 years the last penal settlement in Tasmania at Port Arthur was permanently closed in 1877.
Between 1772 and 1798, recorded European visits were only to the southeastern portion of the island and it was not known to be an island until Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated it in the sloop Norfolk in 1798-1799.
In 1773, Tobias Furneaux in HMS Adventure, explored a great part of the south and east coasts of Van Diemen's Land and made the earliest British chart of the island. He discovered the opening to D'Entrecasteaux Channel and, at Bruny Island, named Adventure Bay for his ship.
In 1777, James Cook took on water and wood in Tasmania and became cursorily acquainted with some aborigines on his third voyage of discovery. Cook named the Furneaux Group of islands at the eastern entrance to Bass Strait and the group now known as the Low Archipelago.
From at least the settlement of New South Wales, sealers and whalers operated in the surrounding waters and explored parts.
In January 1793, a French expedition under the command of Antoine Bruni d'Entrecasteaux anchored in Recherche Bay and a period of five weeks was spent in that area, carrying out explorations into both natural history and geography. A few months later, British East India Company Captain John Hayes, with the ships Duke of Clarence and Duchess, resupplied with wood and water at Adventure Bay and explored and named the Derwent River and many surrounding features.
In 1802 and 1803, the French expedition commanded by Nicolas Baudin explored D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Maria Island and carried out charting of Bass Strait. Baudin had been associated, like Peyroux, with the resettlement of the Acadians from French Canada - mostly from what is now called the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia area to Louisiana.
Around 1784-1785, Henri Peyroux de la Coudrenière, a serial entrepreneur in colonial schemes, wrote a "memoir on the advantages to be gained for the Spanish crown by the settlement of Van Diemen's Land". After receiving no response from the Spanish government, Peyroux proposed it to the French government, as "Mémoire sur les avantages qui résulteraient d'une colonie puissante à la terre de Diémen" but nothing came of his scheme.
Sealers and whalers based themselves on the Tasmanian islands from 1798.
In August 1803, New South Wales Governor Philip King sent Lieutenant John Bowen to establish a small military outpost on the eastern shore of the Derwent River to forestall any claims to the island arising from the activities of the French explorers.
From 24 September 1804 until 4 February 1813 there were two administrative divisions in Van Diemen's Land, Cornwall County in the north and Buckingham County in the south. The border between the counties was defined as the 42nd parallel (now between Trial Harbour and Friendly Beaches). Cornwall County was administered by William Paterson while Buckingham County was administered by David Collins.
Major-General Ralph Darling was appointed Governor of New South Wales in 1825, and in the same year he visited Hobart Town, and on 3 December proclaimed the establishment of the independent colony, of which he became governor for three days.
From the early 1800s to the 1853 abolition of penal transportation (known simply as "transportation"), Van Diemen's Land was the primary penal colony in Australia. Following the suspension of transportation to New South Wales, all transported convicts were sent to Van Diemen's Land. In total, some 73,000 convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land or about 40% of all convicts sent to Australia.
Male convicts served their sentences as assigned labour to free settlers or in gangs assigned to public works. Only the most difficult convicts (mostly re-offenders) were sent to the Tasman Peninsula prison known as Port Arthur. Female convicts were assigned as servants in free settler households or sent to a female factory (women's workhouse prison). There were five female factories in Van Diemen's Land.
Convicts completing their sentences or earning their ticket-of-leave often promptly left Van Diemen's Land. Many settled in the new free colony of Victoria, to the dismay of the free settlers in towns such as Melbourne.
On 6 August 1829, the brig Cyprus, a government-owned vessel used to transport goods, people, and convicts, set sail from Hobart Town for Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on a routine voyage carrying supplies and convicts. While the ship was becalmed in Recherche Bay, convicts allowed on deck attacked their guards and took control of the brig. The mutineers marooned officers, soldiers, and convicts who did not join the mutiny without supplies. The convicts then sailed the Cyprus to Canton, China, where they scuttled her and claimed to be castaways from another vessel. On the way, Cyprus visited Japan during the height of the period of severe Japanese restrictions on the entry of foreigners, the first Australian ship to do so.
Tensions sometimes ran high between the settlers and the "Vandemonians" as they were termed, particularly during the Victorian gold rush when a flood of settlers from Van Diemen's Land rushed to the Victorian goldfields.
Complaints from Victorians about recently released convicts from Van Diemen's Land re-offending in Victoria was one of the contributing reasons for the eventual abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land in 1853.
Media related to Van Diemen's Land at Wikimedia Commons