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This chapter combines chronological and thematic approaches to highlight the contributions of the chief resource industries to Australia's economic development. It discusses three key periods, being those associated with the forming of a pastoral economy to 1850, the augmenting of the resources economy by minerals and new land during 1850-90, and the adjustments and diversification of primary industries during 1890-1914. Within these periods the narrative explores the connections of the natural resource industries with enterprise, skills and technology, institutions and social capital, export-led growth, a staples trap and resource curse, and extracted resource rents and sustainability. In 1820 Australia's settler economy was confined to a narrow coastal strip of New South Wales and the riverine valleys of Van Diemen's Land. The first pastoral boom was faltering in the 1840s, although slower population growth ameliorated a tendency towards GDP per capita retardation.
An expanding economy, new technologies, and changing consumer preferences provided growth opportunities for firms in interwar Australia. This period saw an increase in the number of large-scale firms in mining, manufacturing, and a wide range of service industries. Firms unable to rely solely on retained earnings to fund expansion turned to the domestic stock exchanges. A new data set of capital raisings constructed from reports of prospectuses published in the financial press forms the basis for the conclusion that many firms used substantial injections of equity finance to augment internally generated sources of funds. That they were able to do so indicates a strong increase in the capacity of local stock exchanges and a greater willingness of individuals to hold part of their wealthin transferable securities.