A new book examining the history of the Nineteenth Century's gold rushes has been launched at Sovereign Hill's Gold Museum.
A Global History of Gold Rushes, edited by Dr Benjamin Mountford and Associate Professor Stephen Tufnell, is a collection of essays that provide an insight into one of the events which shaped the modern world, the global rush for gold between the 1840s and the early 20th Century.
When gold was discovered in California in 1848 by mill worker James Marshall, it set in train a kind of mania that was to transform the world. People abandoned their homes and jobs, uprooted their families and travelled around the world.
Indigenous cultures were uprooted and destroyed, as was the very earth they lived upon. New technologies came into being: telegraph communication, steamships, railways. Cities boomed and then burst. Some boomed again. Ballarat and Bendigo in Australia; names like Johannesburg, Denver and Boise rose to prominence.
The very basis of economics was altered forever. Credit became an integral part of a wider international trade; businesses sometimes became international entities.
But there was also a dire environmental outcome. Waterways and forests were destroyed in the push to win more gold ever faster and in increasing amounts. Pollutants were used in unimaginable volumes - mercury and cyanide, arsenic and other heavy metals are still found in highly elevated levels in the soils of goldfields all around the world.
Editor Benjamin Mountford is a senior lecturer in History at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne and the author of Britain, China, and Colonial Australia. He isco-editor of Fighting Words: Fifteen Books That Shaped the Postcolonial World.
He says there's a long tradition of regional history being studied in gold rush areas, but little research about the global phenomenon, something he is greatly interested in.
"The discovery of and search for gold was important in greatly accelerating connections around the world," he says.
"Roughly, there was more gold discovered between 1848 and the end of the Nineteenth Century, the Klondyke rushes, than there had been in the 3,000 years of civilisation before."
He says the rushes led to great capital cities such as Melbourne and Johannesburg, but also the rise of the great hinterland cities, which includes Ballarat.
"When Mark Twain came here in the later 1800s, he noted the fame of Ballarat was already worldwide."
Dr Mountford co-edited A Global History of Gold Rushes with Stephen Tuffnell, Associate Professor of Modern US History at the University of Oxford. Professor Tufnell is currently completing Emigrant Foreign Relations: Independence and Interdependence in the Atlantic, c. 1789-1902. He researches US history from a global perspective.