21 August 2016
Captain James Cook claimed eastern Australia for Britain on 21 August 1770
On this day in history, 1770: Captain James Cook claims eastern Australia for Britain, subsequently naming it New South Wales.
This was the first trip on which he’d landed on the continent of Australia, disembarking famously at Botany Bay earlier that year, on 29 April. Known for the quantity of botanical specimens that Mr Banks and Dr Solander studied in the bay, the location wasn’t deemed a suitable place to live, and in the years to come would become, briefly, the site of the penal colony, before this too was relocated.
Originally the area named New South Wales included Lord Howe Island, New Zealand, Norfolk Island and Van Diemen’s Land, but it reduced in size over the following century as further territories were established.
Watch an animation showing how Australia’s borders changed over time below. This is extremely valuable to know, as many records of family history interest are held in state rather than national archives – so you need to be sure of the state to maximise your chances of finding your ancestors in Australian records.