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Diaries and memoirs from the Victorian gold rush

Posted 26/04/2019 in History
Diaries and memoirs are an extremely valuable source of information about life in Victoria during the 19th century gold rush. These first hand accounts, written by people living and working on the goldfields, offer us a fascinating personal view of the work, culture, events, habits and concerns of the time. 

The following list of significant diaries/memoirs from the Victorian gold rush are all available to read online, just follow the links for each one. Please note that this is not a complete list and will be added to over time. 

A Lady's Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-53

A Lady's Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-53. Image source: www.louellakerrbooks.com.au

Written by Ellen Clacy and published in London in 1853.

English woman Ellen Clacy travelled to the goldfields of Victoria with her brother in 1852. This memoir details the twenty year old's journey from Melbourne to the diggings and includes accounts and observations of the road to the diggings, the towns, the countryside, the people they met, the stories they heard, the nature of the goldfields and the work they did on the diggings. Told in a lighthearted manner but packed with lots of serious content, this book is a pleasure to read. 

Available to read online here. Also available as an audiobook here


Diary of Charles Evans, 1853-1855 (previously known as 'The Lazarus Diary')

Diary of Charles Evans, 1853-1855. Entry from the day before the Eureka Stockade. Image source: State Library Victoria.

This significant gold rush diary was written between September 24th 1853 and January 21st 1855 and contains a firsthand account of the Eureka Stockade. Previously thought to have been written by Samuel Lazarus of Liverpool, this diary is now considered to have been written by Charles Evans, an auctioneer and printer, thanks to research by historian Clare Wright.

The diary begins eleven months after the author's arrival in Victoria with his brother. They worked in Melbourne in various enterprises before setting off for the Ballarat diggings to establish a number of successful businesses. This diary is extremely significant as it includes a first-hand account of the Eureka Stockade and the events surrounding it. 

Available to read online, provided as both a manuscript and a transcript here.


Notes of a Gold Digger and Gold Digger's Guide, 1852

Notes of a Gold Digger and Gold Digger's Guide. Image source: Trove

Written by James Bonwick and published in Melbourne in 1852.

James Bonwick (1817-1906), teacher, author, historian and archivist, stayed briefly at the diggings in 1852. He wrote of his observations on many aspects of life on the goldfields, with sections titled: the road to the diggings, the digger at work, the digger at home, health at the diggings, moral state of the diggings, history of the diggings, and geology of the diggings.

Available to read online as a text document here, or as scanned pages of the book here.


Lord Robert Cecil's gold fields diary, 1852

Lord Robert Cecil's Gold Fields Diary, 1852. Image source: Trove

Written by Lord Robert Cecil in 1852, published in Melbourne in 1935.

Diary entries over a fortnight which detail Lord Robert Cecil's tour of the Victorian goldfields as a visitor and observer. Lord Robert Cecil's experience of the goldfields was quite different to that of the average traveller, spending most of his time in the company of distinguished men rather than among the diggers. 

Available to read online here.


Diary of a miner working on the Ballarat goldfields, 1855

Diary of a miner working on the Ballarat goldfields, 1855. Available online as both a manuscript and a transcript. Image source: www.thecourier.com.au

Written by an unidentified author who appears to have been a Scotsman.

In this diary the author documents his daily life as a miner on the Ballarat and surrounding goldfields. He describes many aspects of life including local events, meals, chores, weather, accidents and deaths, trips to Melbourne, and even the escape of a Bengal tiger from the Montezuma Circus. Although written in a very brief and blunt manner, this diary includes a vast amount of detail regarding day to day life on the goldfields.

Available to read online, provided both as a manuscript and a transcript here.




 

 

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