Settlers guides and emigrant publications | State Library of New South Wales

Settler’s guides and emigrant publications

A popular form of literature for new settlers to Australia was the emigrant guide. These cheap publications began to appear in great numbers in around the 1830s - about the time when pastoral land was opened up for selection, rather than being allocated in grants. This led to an upsurge in immigration, primarily from the UK.

The emigrant guides were aimed both at those people thinking about emigrating to Australia from Britain, as well as those who were newly arrived in the colonies. They covered topics such as the climate, history and politics of Australia, travel narratives and personal experiences of life in the colony. They also included advice on agriculture, pastoralism and land and stock prices. Until about the 1870s, most of the guides advocated pastoralism as the best way to make a living on the land in New South Wales. Sheep and cattle were viewed as safe bets, and it was considered unnecessary to plant more crops than were necessary for personal use. Other colonies such as South Australia and New Zealand were considered primarily agricultural, and those emigrants who wished to pursue crop-growing were advised to consider alternatives to New South Wales.

An early publication to go against this trend and promote the importance of the work of the farmer over the pastoralist is the first (and only) issue of the Australian settlers guide, or monthly journal, from 1835.

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Selections from Australian settlers guide, or monthly journal. [Sydney], 1835.
Printed periodical 630.5/1

'The greatest opportunities for emigrants to New South Wales exist in the expansion of the great primary industries of the country, pastoral, agricultural and dairying'. (Agricultural map of New South Wales, NSW Immigration & Tourist Bureau, 1909)

By the early 20th century, the NSW Immigration and Tourist Bureau took on the role of providing information to intending settlers in New South Wales. In the 1920s, the Country Promotion League was founded in association with the Commonwealth Immigration Office, in a campaign to promote the resources of rural New South Wales and attract British migrants to settle and farm the land. 

 > Find a selection of publications by the Country Promotion Leauge, via the Library's catalogue
 > Read a NSW Immigration and Tourist Bureau publication called How to go on the land in New South Wales

How to go on the land

Publications in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries were often full of advertising material, including where to buy farming equipment, stock and station agents, clothing outfitters and feed and manure suppliers. Businesses were keen to advertise in publications aimed at farmers as competition in the market could be fierce. Many larger operators, such as Anthony Hordern & Sons, also offered a thriving mail order service.  

 > View some of the typical advertising material found in publications aimed at farmers

Advertising in guides