On this day in 1770, Australia became a colony of Great Britain as James Cook claimed it for the British Empire, naming the land New South Wales, home to Sydney and today Australia’s most populous state. During his expeditions to the Pacific, Cook also discovered Hawaii and New Zealand, and would go on to become one of Great Britain’s greatest explorers, as the colonies established in the lands he claimed would go on to become some of Britain’s most successful. In this case, New South Wales was made into a penal colony, and was used to house some of Britain’s biggest criminals. The criminals, upon the end of their sentences, were granted land in the are, along with the soldiers who guarded them, so that eventually, the colony developed into what is now Australia. The last prisoners from Britain arrived in January of 1868, and independence from the British Empire would be achieved on January 1st, 1901. The history of the penal colonies in Australia remains a large part of the country’s culture, along with the discoveries made by James Cook and subsequent explorers.