In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, new countries were being discovered and explored. James Cook's voyages took him to Australia and the Antarctic. John Franklin headed north to the Arctic Circle in search of the North West Passage.

See the students' section for instructions for this activity.

You can download a high resolution version of the map here.


Curriculum Links 


Locational knowledge


Place knowledge


Human and physical geography


Geographical skills and fieldwork


A study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils' chronological knowledge beyond 1066


Scottish Curriculum Links


Literacy and English 

LIT 2-14a

Reading - Finding and using information.


LIT 2-16a

Reading - Understanding, analysing and evaluating.

Social Studies


SOC 2-01a

People, past events and societies. 

Using primary and secondary sources selectively to research events in the past.


SOC 2-04a

People, past events and societies. 

Comparing and contrasting a society in the past with my own and contributing to a discussion on the similarities and differences.


SOC 2-06a

People, past events and societies. 

Discussing why people and events from a particular time in the past were important, placing them within a historical sequence.


SOC 2-14a

People, place and environment. 

We all know what the world looks like: we have maps and atlases which show us the shape of countries, rivers and oceans in amazing detail.  Satellites, taking pictures from space, allow us to know shape of the land, the height of mountains and even the depth of the oceans.

But 300 years ago there were vast parts of the world that people in Europe didn't know about.

old map

Have a look at this map, made in 1761. 

You can download a high resolution version of the map here.

First have a look at where the North and South Poles are. 

Can you see how different it is from the world we know today? 

Find a modern map of the world and compare the shapes of the countries. 

Can you work out which parts of the world had not been explored as much?


Exploring was dangerous, but there were many rewards.  Explorers were looking for gold, silver, jewels and spices, and they took to the seas because it was often safer than travelling by land.  In the 15th and 16th centuries much of the world had been 'discovered'.  Of course, people were already living in these 'new' countries, there were Aborigines in Australia, Maoris in New Zealand and the Incas in South America, and the explorers often brought diseases and they fought over the land.