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The discovery of gold in Australia is as much a story of commerce and industry as one of mere ‘good fortune and hard work’. During 1851 and 1852, the immediate impact of the discovery of gold on a pastoral and agrarian economy (based on wool and wheat) was dramatic, and for the most part negative. Although gold mining provided obvious benefits, they were qualified by the desertion of farms and factories by workers leaving for the goldfields, depriving industry and agriculture of sufficient manpower to carry on production.

The impact of the gold discoveries is also a story of capital formation, and the establishment of the organisational structures required to extract gold from a diversity of mining sites. New industries emerged, and a financial system (underpinned by stock exchanges and the powerful entrepreneurial spirit of those favoured by Fortuna in their quest for gold and other precious metals) developed. Powerful business coteries, such as the Collins House group, also had their antecedence in the gold rush era.

Keir Reeves