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European empires spread around the world from the late 1400s, competing for access to lucrative goods and secure trade routes.
Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and France expanded south, into Asia. Britain annexed islands in the Pacific including Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia.
Men such as James Cook, who could find and claim new territory with or without the consent of its inhabitants, became national heroes. Maps, books, illustrations and specimens brought newly claimed lands to the homes and imaginations of European people.
Right: This watercolour, painted by Tupia, a Tahitian man who joined the Endeavour voyage, shows a Maori man bartering a crayfish with Joseph Banks. Courtesy: British Library.
This map of the world shows the empires of Europe's major powers around 1770.