Van Diemen's Land

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Van Diemen's Land was the original name used by Europeans for the island of Tasmania, now part of Australia. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to explore Tasmania. He named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt in honor of Anthony van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies who had sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery in 1642.

In 1803, the island was colonized by the British as a penal colony with the name Van Diemen's Land.


[edit] Penal colony

From the 1830s to the abolition of penal transportation (known simply as "transportation") in 1853, Van Diemen's Land was the primary penal colony in Australia. Following the suspension of transportation to New South Wales, all convicts sent to Australia served their sentences as assigned labour to free settlers, or in gangs assigned to public works in Van Diemen's Land. Only the most difficult convicts were sent to the Tasman Peninsula prison known as Port Arthur, mostly re-offenders. In total, some 75,000 convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land, or about 40% of all convicts sent to Australia.

Convicts completing their sentence or earning their ticket-of-leave often promptly left Van Diemen's Land to settle in the new free colony of Victoria to the disgust of the free settlers in towns such as Melbourne. Tensions sometimes ran high between the settlers and the "Vandemonians" as they were termed, particularly during the Victorian gold rush when a flood of settlers from Van Diemen's Land rushed to the Victorian gold fields. Complaints from Victorians about recently released convicts from Van Diemen's Land re-offending in Victoria was one of the contributing reasons for the eventual abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land in 1853.

In order to remove the unsavoury connotations with crime associated with its name, in 1856 Van Diemen's Land was renamed Tasmania in honour of Abel Tasman. The last penal settlement in Tasmania at Port Arthur finally closed in 1877.

[edit] Popular culture

[edit] Music

  • Van Diemen's Land is mentioned in the Australian folk song "The Wild Colonial Boy".
  • Van Diemen's Land is often mentioned in the works of Flogging Molly.
Every Dog has its Day, by Flogging Molly
Well I've drunk to drown
on every ocean I've been;
Lake Tankanijka
Where the crocodiles swim...
Halifax Nova Scotia
Down to Van Diemen's Land
Well I drank with the Sultan
Down the Suez Canal
  • Among the Irish folk songs that mention Van Diemen's Land, are "The Black Velvet Band", "Back Home in Derry", and "Van Diemen's Land".
  • "Van Diemen's Land", also known as "The Gallant Poachers", is a traditional English folk song.
Oh! when we sailed from England
We landed at the bay
We had rotten straw for bedding
We dared not to say nay
Our cots were fenced with fire
We slumber when we can
To drive away the wolves and tigers
Upon Van Diemen's Land
  • "Van Diemen's Land" is the title of the second track from the rock band U2's album Rattle and Hum. The lyrics were written and sung by The Edge.
Hold me now, oh hold me now
Till this hour has gone around
And I'm gone, on the rising tide
For to face Van Diemen's land.
It's a bitter pill I swallow here
To be rent from one so dear.
We fought for justice and not for gain
But the magistrate sent me away.
Now kings will rule and the poor will toil
And tear their hands as they tear the soil
But a day will come in this dawning age
When an honest man sees an honest wage.
Hold me now, oh hold me now
Till this hour has gone around
And I'm gone on the rising tide
For to face Van Diemen's Land.
  • The chorus to the English folk song Maggie May says "They've sent you to Van Diemen's cruel shore."
  • Van Diemen's Land is the subject of the Irish Song, "Back home in Derry". The music was written by Canadian song writer Gordon Lightfoot and the lyrics by the famous Irish Republican Bobby Sands. It is most famously sung by the Irish bard, Christy Moore. The last verse is:
Van Diemen's Land is a hell for a man
To live out his life in slavery.
Where the climate is raw and the gun makes the law
Neither wind nor rain care for bravery.
Twenty years have gone by and I've ended my bond;
My comrades' ghosts walk beside me.
Well a rebel I came -- I'm still the same;
On a cold winters night you will find me.

[edit] Literature

  • Van Diemen's Land is the setting of Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish by Richard Flanagan (published 2002), which tells the story of a man who is transported to the island, and runs afoul of the local (and rather insane) authorities.
  • In Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian, one of the characters in the Glanton Gang of scalpers in 1850s Mexico is a "Vandiemenlander" named Bathcat. Born in Wales he later went to Australia to hunt aborigines, and eventually came to Mexico, where he used those skills on the Apaches.
  • Van Diemen's Land is mentioned in Edgar Allan Poe's book Narrative of A. Gordon Pym. The main character stops at this island on his way to the South Pole.
  • Van Diemen's Land is mentioned in Umberto Eco's novel "The Island of the Day Before" ("L'isola del giorno prima", 1994), a story about a 17th century Italian nobleman trapped at an island at the International Date Line.
  • Van Diemen's Land is mentioned in Emily Dickinson's "Part Three: Love"
  • From "The Potato Factory" by Bryce Courtenay (1995): "... subtracting till my fingers dropped; into Van Diemen's Land." This is a quote from Emily Dickinson's Poem "If You Were Coming In The Fall".
  • In "Gulliver's Travels", by Jonathan Swift (1726), the country of Lilliput is described as being 'to the north-west of Van Dieman's Land' (sic).

[edit] External links

da:Van Diemen's Land ja:ヴァン・ディーメンズ・ランド lt:Van Dymeno Žemė nl:Van Diemensland pl:Ziemia van Diemena

Van Diemen's Land

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