Historical Background

An knowledge of the historical setting of your family’s history helps to understand your family, and piece together some events.  Below I have outlined the historical background behind the Dawson family and their branches.

Like all webpages, this is a work in progress.


All branches of my family emigrated to South Australia.  That narrows down the Australian historical background I need to outline.

South Australia was started in a flurry of liberal zeal.  The aim of those who promoted it was for political and religious freedom.  This came after a history in Britain of religious persecution and political control by the social elite.  The move to liberal democracy was well under way in Britain when South Australiawas formed. Australia itself gained enormously from these ideals and all of the colonies formed liberal democracies when given responsible (independent) governments.

As South Australia had no convicts it saw itself as a social ‘experiment’; an attempt to form the perfect society.  Although South Australia ended up little different to the other Australia colonies, at the time the contrast between those colonies which began merely as convict outposts and this new colony was strong.  By Federation all the Australian colonies were following the ideals of liberalism.  However, the time of the establishment ofSouth Australiawas early days; gold was still yet to be discovered.

One of South Australia’s aims was for freedom from government control.  This is in keeping with the liberal ideals of the colony.  ‘Government control’ in the mid 19th century referred to control by social elites.  The fear was that such controls would limit access for the poorer classes, as had happened in previous centuries.  One of the great successes of this period has been the success in these liberal ideals and the freeing up of society so the poorer classes have had access to all elements in society.

It needs to be pointed out that ‘Government control’ did not mean the fear of socialism that the modern right-wing government parties fear.  Socialism believes in government intervention to help those poorer people who, despite the wonderful ideals of liberalism, still have problems escaping their poverty.

Early Adelaide and South Australia
The following sites provide good insight into how South Australia was settled, what life was like in the trip out and the early days of the colony.

Bound for South Australia 1836
A site ran by History SA and the SA Dept of Education and Children’s Services, this site is a digital re-enactment of the journey made 175 years ago by nine ships that came to South Australia in 1836.  It combines original historical source material and modern communications technology into a living digital history.

Emonson Family History. 
This site is for an SA family not connected to ours, but provides a good account of how The SA Company worked, and what the sea journey was like.