British Empire
The rise of the British empire - Australia
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Extract from a letter written by James Cook on his exploration of Australia, 1770
(Catalogue ref: ADM 55/40 f.160)
  • This document is a short extract from the log book (diary) of Captain Cook's voyage to Australia.
  • Cook sailed in his ship Endeavour in 1769 and reached Australia in 1770. Although he was a navy captain in a Royal Navy ship, most of his instructions came from the Royal Society. The Society's main aim was to advance scientific knowledge and understanding. The instructions were top secret.
  • Cook did not discover Australia. Aboriginal people had already settled Australia long before. Also Europeans knew Australia existed because the western half of the continent had already been mapped and called New Holland.
  • However, no Europeans had sailed to the other side of Australia. This was Cook's achievement. His main priorities were to map the land and to claim it for Britain if possible (if it was uninhabited or if the local people agreed).
  • There were people living on the lands that Cook visited, but Cook did not get their agreement when he claimed the east coast of New Holland (Australia) for Britain.
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