In a remarkable coincidence, the California gold rush took place almost simultaneously with another located halfway around the world. In 1851, gold was discovered in Australia, then a collection of British colonies. During the 1850s, California and Australia together produced 80 percent of the world’s gold. Like California, Australia attracted gold-seekers from across the globe. The population of Victoria, the colony where gold was found, grew from 77,000 in 1851 to 411,000 six years later. Like San Francisco, the Australian city of Melbourne rose to prominence on the basis of its proximity to the gold fields.

As in California, the gold rush was a disaster for the aboriginal peoples (as native Australians are called), whose population, already declining, fell precipitously. In Australia, like California, significant numbers of Chinese miners took part in the gold rush, only to face persistent efforts by miners of European origin to drive them from the fields. Indeed, Australians frequently modeled anti-Chinese legislation—especially their tax on foreign miners—on measures that had been pioneered in California.

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