Australasia 1801: Napoleonic France in Australasia
In 1794–95 the revolutionary French Republic invaded and occupied the Dutch Republic, supporting the creation of the Batavian Republic in its place. This action extended French influence into the East Indies, where the declining and debt-ridden Dutch East India Company was dissolved a few years later. Despite facing continued wars and blockade, French First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte sponsored the Baudin expedition to chart the coasts of Australia in 1800, implicitly challenging the British claim to the continent.
26 Aug 1794–24 Jan 1795 Fall of the Dutch Republic▲
In August 1794 the armies of the revolutionary French Republic captured Sluis, beginning their invasion of the Dutch Republic. On 19 January 1795, with the French advancing rapidly across the country, Dutch revolutionaries gained power in Amsterdam and proclaimed the pro-French Batavian Republic. French troops entered the city later that day, completing their campaign by capturing the Dutch fleet—trapped in the ice—on the 24th.
17 Feb 1796–1 Jan 1803 British occupation of Ambon▲
In 1795 the Dutch stadtholder William V, Prince of Orange—who had fled to Britain in the wake of the French invasion of the Netherlands—ordered the Dutch colonies to surrender to the British for “safekeeping”. Thus authorized, British forces occupied Ambon in the Dutch East Indies in 1796. The British followed up by occupying the Moluccas in 1801, but restored both territories to Franco-Dutch rule following William’s renouncement of his title in 1801 and the 1802 Treaty of Amiens.
7 Oct 1798–7 Jan 1799 Circumnavigation of Tasmania▲
An open whaleboat expedition to what is now Gippsland, Victoria, in 1797 convinced British explorer George Bass that Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) was an island. In 1798–99 he proved this assertion by circumnavigating Van Diemen’s Land in the sloop Norfolk with fellow explorer Matthew Flinders. Along the way they visited the Derwent River, where the settlement of Hobart would later be founded on Bass’s recommendations.
19 Oct 1800–24 Mar 1804 Baudin expedition▲
Given approval by French First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte, Nicolas Baudin led an expedition of two ships—Géographe and Naturaliste—set out from France in October 1800 to explore the coasts of New Holland (Australia), where they arrived in May 1801. Over the next two years Baudin surveyed much of the southern, western, and northern Australian coast, as well as collecting numerous specimens and discovering over 2,500 new species. In 1811 the French published the first complete map of Australia, implicitly confining New South Wales to the eastern seaboard in favor of French claims.
1 Jan 1801 Dissolution of VOC▲
By the late 18th century the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had fallen heavily into debt from declining fortunes and territorial losses. In 1796, following the establishment of the Batavian Republic—a French client state—in the Netherlands the previous year, the company was nationalized and all its directors dismissed. The company’s charter was renewed several times thereafter, but finally allowed to lapse at the end of 1800.