Volume 1 of The Cambridge History of Australia explores Australia's history from ancient times through to Federation in 1901. It begins with an archaeological examination of the continent's Indigenous history, which dates back 50,000 years. This volume examines the first European encounters with Australia and its Indigenous people, and the subsequent colonisation of the land by the British in the late eighteenth century, providing insight into the realities of a convict society and how this shaped the nation's development. Part I traces the dynamic growth in Australia's economy, demography and industry throughout the nineteenth century, as it moved towards a system of liberal democracy and one of the most defining events in its history: the Federation of the colonies in 1901. Part II offers a deeper investigation of key topics, such as relations between Indigenous people and settlers, and Australia's colonial identity. It also covers the economy, science and technology, law and literature.