|Van Diemen's Land was the original name used by Europeans for the island of Tasmania, now part of Australia. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to explore Tasmania. He named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt in honor of Anthony van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies who had sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery in 1642.
In 1803, the island was colonized by the British as a penal colony with the name Van Diemen's Land.
From the 1830s to the abolition of penal transportation (known simply as "transportation") in 1853, Van Diemen's Land was the primary penal colony in Australia. Following the suspension of transportation to New South Wales, all transported convicts were sent to in Van Diemen's Land. In total, some 75,000 convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land, or about 40% of all convicts sent to Australia.
Male convicts served their sentences as assigned labour to free settlers or in gangs assigned to public works. Only the most difficult convicts were sent to the Tasman Peninsula prison known as Port Arthur, mostly re-offenders.
Female convicts were assigned as servants in free settler households or sent to a female factory (women's workhouse prison). There were five female factories in Van Diemen's Land.
Convicts completing their sentence or earning their ticket-of-leave often promptly left Van Diemen's Land. Many settled in the new free colony of Victoria, to the disgust of the free settlers in towns such as Melbourne.
Tensions sometimes ran high between the settlers and the "Vandemonians" as they were termed, particularly during the Victorian gold rush when a flood of settlers from Van Diemen's Land rushed to the Victorian gold fields.
Complaints from Victorians about recently released convicts from Van Diemen's Land re-offending in Victoria was one of the contributing reasons for the eventual abolition of transportation to Van Diemen's Land in 1853.
In order to remove the unsavoury connotations with crime associated with its name, in 1856 Van Dieman's Land was renamed Tasmania in honour of Abel Tasman. The last penal settlement in Tasmania at Port Arthur finally closed in 1877