The expeditions of James Cook shaped Europe’s knowledge of the world, and had far-reaching consequences for the people of the lands they touched. Explore the stories, art and maps of the artists and scientists who were on board the ships. Our digital collection items include drawings by the Polynesian high priest and navigator Tupaia, who accompanied Cook to New Zealand and Australia.

You’ll also find modern-day responses to the expeditions from people of the communities Cook encountered, documented and learned from. These reflect the different perspectives that exist on the legacy of the voyages and their impact.

Articles

The first voyage of James Cook

William Frame, the British Library’s Head of Modern Archives and Manuscripts, gives an account of Cook’s first voyage of 1768-71. Cook was instructed to observe the transit of Venus. But his expedition also had a secret aim to find lands in the south Pacific.

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An indigenous Australian perspective on Cook's arrival

Dr Shayne T. Williams, Ph.D, looks at how James Cook’s landing in New South Wales, Australia might have been experienced and interpreted by the Gweagal people.

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After Cook's voyages: the imperial legacy

Professor Glyn Williams describes how Britain was quick to exploit the discoveries of Cook’s voyages.

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18th-century voyages for the Northwest Passage

There were many expeditions in search of a Northwest Passage during the 1700s. They include the voyages of Frances Smith, Samuel Hearne and James Cook. By the end of the century, George Vancouver had explored the northwest coast in detail.

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Themes

The voyages

Read about James Cook’s three voyages to the Pacific.

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