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.
On our shelves:
Books on James Cook, the Endeavour and his three voyages can be found in many places in the Library. The best way to locate most of these resources by using a keyword search in our catalogue:
Diaries and journals:
- James Cook: the journals - These journals by Captain James Cook record the 'historic meeting between two worlds;.
- Explorers of the late Renaissance - Includes chapters on James Cook and Joseph Banks
- Brodie, Nick: 1787: the lost chapters of Australia's history - Use the index to find material on James Cook and Joseph Banks.
- Frame, James, Walker, Laura: James Cook: The voyages - This is the catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition held at the British Library in 2018.
- Heath, Byron: Discovering the Great Southern land
- Rienitis, Rex and Thea: The Voyages of Captain Cook
- Salmond, Anne: The Trial of the cannibal dog: Captain Cook in the South Seas
- Chambers, Neil: Endeavouring Banks: exploring collections from the Endeavour voyage 1768-1771
John Harrison - Longitude:
- Sobel, Dava: Longitude: the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time
- Collingridge, V 2006, 'James Cook', The Seventy great journeys in history', Thames & Hudson, London, pp. 143-147.
- McEwan, M , 'James Cook, navigator', Great Australian explorers, Bay Books, Kensington, N.S.W., pp. 17-29.
John Harrison & Longitude:
- Williams, B 2002, 'The Time has come', Latitude & Longitude, Cherrytree Books, Berkshire, pp. 20-21.
- Williams, B 2002, 'Small is beautiful', Latitude & Longitude, Cherrytree Books, Berkshire, pp. 22-23.
- Thinard, F 2016, 'Harvesting south hemisphere plants: Banks and Solander in the South Seas', Explorers' botanical notebook, Firefly Books, Buffalo, New York, pp. 64-67.
Web resources - James Cook
- Australian Dictionary of Biography: Cook, James 1728-1779
- The British Library: James Cook: The voyages
- Captain James Cook Society
- History: Ten things you may not know about Captain James Cook
- Natural History Museum: HMS Endeavour 250
- Princeton University: James Cook, 1728-1779
- State Library of N.S.W.: Captain Cook's Voyages of Discovery
- Timeline of the First Voyage (1768-1771) - Second Voyage (1772-1775) - Third Voyage (1776-1779)
Australia - Botany Bay:
- National Museum of Australia - Encounters: Botany Bay - Gweagal & Bidjigal Country [Please note this website uses the names and images of deceased persons which may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people]
Australia - Cooktown:
- ABC Radio National: Cook in Cooktown
- ABC Radio National: The story of Australia's first reconciliation
- ABC - btn: - Life on the HMS Endeavour [Video - 3:51]
- Australian Geographic, 2010, Building history: The Endeavour replica
- National Museum of Australia - Endeavour runs aground
- Hawaii Alive: Early Hawaiian Society: Captain James Cook
- National Parks Service - U.S. Department of Interior: Cook Landing site - Island of Kaua'i, Hawaii
- University of Canterbury: Cook's death in Hawaii
- ARCUS (Arctic Research Consortium of the United States: Arctic ambitions: Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage
Transit of Venus
Web resources - University of Wellington
The New Zealand historian and academic J.C. Beaglehole is famous for editing the three journals of James Cook and his exploration of Oceania, New Zealand and Australia. Many of his Beaglehole's material is now available online from NZETC (New Zealand Electronic text collection]. The following would be of particular interest when conducting research on Captain James Cook:
Web resources - John Harrison
James Cook took several clocks, including a copy of the one made by John Harrison on his second voyage to the South Seas. Cook wrote in his journal that the watch was 'our trusty friend'.
- Greenwich: Longitude found - John Harrison
- University of Cambridge Digital Library - Papers of the Board of Longitude [208 pages]
Web resources - Joseph Banks
Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) was a naturalist and a patron of science. He accompanied James Cook on his first voyage.