Teaching about the Industrial Revolution in Australia
The Industrial Revolution (1750-1914) is a fascinating part of modern world history. It had far-reaching impacts and was the catalyst for dramatic social changes. It is a great option for secondary teachers to choose as a Year 9 Depth Study in the new AusVELS History course.
The Industrial Revolution is more than dark satanic mills and small boys struggling up chimneys. It is important not to forget the very great, albeit different, impact the Industrial Revolution had on Australia. There are so many local connections and national achievements that can allow the teaching of this Depth Study to be more relevant and interesting to students.
Lots of students researching life and work in Colonial times or the Australian Gold Rushes come to see us at Sovereign Hill, but we can also be a destination for a study of the Industrial Revolution and its impact on Australia.
Links between gold and the industrial revolution
Gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851 at the height of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. The same year the Great Exhibition was staged in the famous Crystal Palace in Hyde Park London. This Exhibition was organised both as a celebration of modern industrial technology and design, and to showcase British Industrial superiority. Six million people—equivalent to a third of the entire population of Britain at the time—visited the Great Exhibition and of course many who visited were soon to join the mass migration to the goldfields.
Those who travelled to Australia in the 1850s bought with them the knowledge, experience and skills of the Industrial Revolution. Many had ridden in trains, worked in the new industrial factories and were confident that this new steam-powered age had established Britain as the most powerful nation on earth. Some of them even travelled to Australia on the amazing ss Great Britain the first iron hulled auxiliary ocean-going steam passenger ship ever built.
Here at Sovereign Hill students have a unique opportunity to see first-hand the impact of the Industrial Revolution on Australia. The diggings area which represents the early years on the goldfields displays pre-industrial technology. Here work is done using human or horse power.
During the 1850s, as the gold became more difficult to reach, the miners on the Victorian goldfields drew on the knowledge they had acquired in Industrial Britain. They rapidly introduced steam-powered machinery to perform work that was too difficult for human or horse power. Ballarat boomed because the Industrial Revolution had already created the technology needed to reach the gold buried deep below ground.
Sovereign Hill has the largest collection of working steam-driven machinery in Victoria.
At the Sovereign Hill wheelwright’s factory rows of machines, that were originally steam-driven, still turn tree trunks into wooden spoked wheels. This is an example of an early factory demonstrating mass production techniques.
Interestingly, next door at the coachbuilders you can watch skilled artisans hand building horse drawn vehicles and/or coaches. This art of skilled craftsmen individually creating objects harks back to pre-industrial times.
If you are a year 9 class studying the Industrial Revolution, we can offer you a new education session which will lead school groups to the various locations around the museum which highlight the impact of the Industrial Revolution on Australia. The session includes some post visit resources and activities. You can find more information about this session and booking information on our website.
Want know more? Here is part 2 to this post.
For more resources and links on studying the Industrial Revolution with Year 9, have a look at the Teacher Librarian Help blog.
Do you have any other useful links or resources for teachers and students exploring the Industrial Revolution? Please share them!