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Introduction

James Cook was a British naval captain, navigator and explorer. The story of Cook's three historic voyages between 1768 and 1780 remain some of the most remarkable in history. Until James Cook's voyages to the Pacific, this large ocean was only an "imagined" space to Europeans.

His first voyage on the Endeavour in 1768, was planned by the Royal Society as part of its quest to observe the 1769 transit of Venus (when Venus would pass between the Earth and the Sun). He had also been secretly directed by the Admiralty to search for lands in the South Pacific, including the mysterious Great Southern Land.

 The voyages of Cook, and their outcome, remain contentious.  Many modern viewpoints are often not as flattering as those promoted at the time.  The British Library has collected some modern-day responses from people of the Pacific to Cook's expeditions, including those of Indigenous Australians.