Upcoming Workshops and Symposia

  • A half way house: The global context of migration from Sydney to San Francisco during the Californian Gold Rush, 1849-1851
    2nd Dec 2014 Rm 214/215 Economics and Business Building (H69)

    The BLHG will be holding a public seminar on “‘A half way house’: The global context of migration from Sydney to San Francisco during the Californian Gold Rush, 1849-1851” on Tuesday 2 December in Room 214/215 in Building H69 between 1-2pm. A meeting for Business School members of BLHG will proceed the seminar at 12.30 in the same venue. The abstract for the talk can be found below.

    The speaker will be Cameron White whose biographical details are below.

    If you are interested in attending please contact Andre Pinto at wos.admin@sydney.edu.au by noon on Friday 28 November as refreshments will be served.


    News of the discovery of gold in California arrived in Sydney via Honolulu on December 23, 1848. In the proceeding 36 Months (7 January 1849 to 31 December 1851) 4,606 men, women and children departed Sydney for San Francisco. The historiography of these migrants has been dominated by the dominant view, in San Francisco, that the city was being inundated by ‘Australian robbers and murderers.’ A closer look reveals greater complexity. Evidence from the Australian end foregrounds four dominant characteristics. Firstly, these Australian gold rush migrants had originally travelled from Britain to New South Wales before moving on to San Francisco. Secondly, they had travelled from Britain to New South Wales as free migrants (not as convicts). Thirdly, they were assisted as opposed to unassisted migrants (meaning that they had received assistance from the colonial government for their passage paid from the sale of Crown Lands). Fourthly, they were predominantly skilled, urban tradesmen as opposed to the agricultural labourers that were primarily required by the major landholders of New South Wales. Accordingly, this paper situates the migration from Sydney-San Francisco in the context of migration from Britain-New South Wales. It focuses on the window of opportunity that opened in 1848 that enabled skilled migrants (tradesmen, artisans and mechanics) to receive colonial assistance for their passage. This window of opportunity, as well as the conditions of labour in New South Wales at that time (1848-1850) provides a unique perspective on who migrated Sydney to San Francisco during the Californian Gold Rush, why they migrated, and their contribution (in terms of skills and labour) on encountering the booming economic conditions prevalent in San Francisco.


    Cameron White is a historian by training. He wrote his PhD in the History Department at the University of Sydney. Since that time he was worked on projects that examine the clothing industry in New South Wales (UTS), the tobacco industry in the United States (University of British Columbia) and the contemporary road construction industry in Australia (Swinburne University). His Sydney-San Francisco project emerged from his PhD research and was initially funded by an Australian Academy of the Humanities Travelling Fellowship.