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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jim's island

August 22 1770 will be remembered as the day that Lieutenant James Cook stood on the newly named Possession Island and claimed the entire eastern Australian coastline as British territory.

All students of Australian history will know that Cook used the racist legal principle of terra nullius - a Latin expression meaning land belonging to no-one - as the basis to make this audacious claim.
Unfortunately, historian Michael Connor has discovered that this is bunk. The legal profession, including perpetual sad guy and Mabo Judge, Sir William Deane were misled into believing terra nullius was "the basis of all land law in this country.”

As Connor revealed, in fact virtually nobody would have heard of the term before the swinging 1970s. Read what Cook actually wrote in his journal on that fateful day, here.

Cook quote: "Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again."


bruce said...

Possession Island? OK I did not know that - always thought Capt Cook claimed Aus on Botany Bay. Bit of cerebro-nullius on my part.

Margo's Maid said...

You are, in fact, correct Bruce, as old James raised his colours at a number of places including Botany Bay. The significance of Possession Island for Cook was that it was at the northern extremity of the east coast. He knew the Dutch had already discovered the west coast, but was claiming the other side for Britain.

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well!
Goes to show how easy it is to distort history!

I have to admit I didn't know this "terra nullius" thingy was a hoax either?

(My excuse is I live in Europe)