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The desire for goods from Asia and advances in shipping first brought Europeans to the Australian continent. From at least the first century BC, European merchants travelled overland to China and South East Asia seeking spices, tea, porcelain and other luxury goods.
By 1500, advances in shipping opened a faster and more profitable sea route to Asia. Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch vessels regularly sailed south from Europe, around the Cape of Good Hope and across to India and the East Indies. If ships did not turn north soon enough, they risked being wrecked along Australia's perilous western coast.
Right: The French map Cosmographie Universelle, 1555, shows the spice trade in the Moloccas (Maluku Islands, Indonesia).
Courtesy: Historique de l'Armée de Terre, France/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library.
The Zuytdorp Cliffs in Western Australia are named after a Dutch East India Trading Company ship wrecked on this coast in 1712. Photo: Kevin Whelan.
This is a view of the harbour at Batavia, Dutch East Indies (Jakarta, Indonesia), about 1700. Courtesy: The Print Collector.
This is a Dutch engraving of the market at Bantam, Java, in the 1600s.
Courtesy: Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France/Archives Charmet/The Bridgeman Art Library.