New Holland (Australia)

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This article is about Australia. For other uses, see New Holland.
New Holland as mapped on a Coronelli globe commissioned in 1681

New Holland is a historical European name for mainland Australia. The name was first applied to Australia in 1644 by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman.

The name New Holland continued to be used to refer to Australia until at least 1824.


William Dampier used the name in his account of a voyage of exploration to the region made in 1699.[1]

After the establishment of a British settlement at New South Wales in 1788, which encompassed the eastern part of the territory, the term New Holland was more often used to refer only to that part of the continent that had not yet been annexed to New South Wales; thus it referred to the western half of the continent.

Map of a part of New Holland made by William Dampier in 1699

In 1804, the British navigator Matthew Flinders first proposed the names "Terra Australis" or "Australia" for the whole continent, reserving "New Holland" for the part west of 135° west longitude, with "New South Wales" to the east. He continued to use "Australia" in his correspondence, while attempting to gather support for the term. His suggestion was initially rejected, but the new name was officially approved by the United Kingdom in 1824. Nevertheless, as late as 1837, in official correspondence between the British government in London and the colony of New South Wales, the term "New Holland" was still being used to refer to the continent as a whole.[2][3]

In the Netherlands, the continent continued to be called Nieuw Holland until the end of the 19th century. The Dutch name today is Australië.

In Literature[edit]

The American author Edgar Allan Poe used the name New Holland to refer to Australia as late as 1833, in his prize-winning short story "MS. Found in a Bottle": "the hulk flew at a rate defying computation (...) and we must have run down the coast of New Holland".[4]

In 1851, Herman Melville wrote, in a chapter of his novel Moby Dick entitled "Does the Whale's Magnitude Diminish? - Will He Perish?", "...may the great whale outlast all hunting, since he has a pasture to patiate in, which is precisely twice as large as all Asia, both Americas, Europe and Africa, New Holland, and all the Isles of the sea combined." [5]

In 1854, another American writer, Henry David Thoreau, mentioned the term New Holland (referring to the territory of the "wild" indigenous Australians) in his book Walden; or, Life in the Woods, in which he writes: "So, we are told, the New Hollander goes naked with impunity, while the European shivers in his clothes. Is it impossible to combine the hardiness of these savages with the intellectualness of the civilized man?"[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dampier, William,(1981) A voyage to New Holland : the English voyage of discovery to the South Seas in 1699 edited with an introduction by James Spencer. Gloucester : Alan Sutton. ISBN 0-904387-75-5
  2. ^ Scott, Ernest (1914). "The Naming of Australia". The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 425. ISBN 9781108040617. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Richards, J., The Secret War: A True History of Queensland's Native Police, 2008, p. 49)
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ (page 8)