The Tasmanian Aborigines had well-established communities over the length of Tasmania thousands of years before the island was discovered by Europeans. Most of the oldest known settlements are in the northern half of the state.
In 1642, a Dutch explorer named Abel Tasman was the first European to sight Tasmania. He initially named the island Van Diemen's Land after his employer, but parliament changed the name to Tasmania in 1856.
The French were the next Europeans to visit Tasmania, in 1772, followed by the English one year later.
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Some of the important dates in Tasmania's history:
• 1642. Sighted by Dutch navigator Abel Tasman. The island is named Van Diemens Land.
• 1772-1793. Various French and British explorers visit Van Diemens Land, some going so far as to plant gardens.
• 1802. Spurred by rumour of impending French settlement, the British governor sends a token landing party from Sydney to Port Dalrymple.
• 1803. The first permanent European occupation, with the British settling at Sullivan's Cove.
• 1822. Britain begins transporting convicts to Van Diemens Land.
• 1825. The Van Diemens Land Company establishes the first notable settlement on the north-west coast at Circular Head.
• 1825. Van Diemens Land becomes a semi-autonomous colony, instead of being administered from Sydney.
• 1852. Gold discovered in the eastern part of the island.
• 1853. Transportation of convicts to Van Diemens Land ceases.
• 1856. Van Diemens Land is renamed to the present-day Tasmania and given permission to form an elected government.
• 1871. Huge tin ore deposits discovered on the west coast; subseqent discoveries lead to rapid exploration in that region.
• 1877. Port Arthur closes.
• 1901. Australian federation - Tasmania becomes a state in the new Commonwealth of Australia.
• 1912. Roald Amundsen telegraphs from Hobart the news that he successfully reached the south pole.