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Cook Islands

The Kingdom of Rarotonga was established in 1858 and in 1888 it became a British protectorate by the request of Queen Makea Takau, mainly to thwart the French. In 1893 the name was changed to the Cook Islands Federation in recognition of Captain Cook.

The Cook Islands comprises 15 islands spread over 2.2 million square kilometres of the South Pacific with Tonga to the west and the Society Islands to the east.

The Cook Islands comprise of two main groups, one in the north and one in the south. The southern group is made up of nine islands mainly of volcanic origin although some are virtually atolls.

The majority of the population lives in the southern group. 

Isalnd European discoverer: vessel date Distance from capital (km)
Aitutaki William Bligh: Bounty 11 Apr 1789 225
Atiu James Cook: Endeavour 31 Mar 1777 223
Mangaia James Cook: Endeavour 29 Mar 1777 177
Manuae James Cook: Endeavour 23 Sep 17735 225
Mauke John Williams: 23 Jul 1823 241
Mitiaro John Williams: 20 Jul 1823 265
Palmerston James Cook: Endeavour 16 Jun 1774 434
Rarotonga  William Bligh: Bounty 1789
Takutea James Cook: Endeavour 4 Apr 1777 244
Winslow Reef Perry Winslow: Phoenix 1851 133

The northern group comprises six atolls.

Atoll European discoverer: vessel date Distance from capital (km)
Manihiki Pedro Fernandes de Queirùs: San Pedro y San Pablo 1606 1160
Nassau Louis Coutance: Adele 1803 1240
Penrhyn William Cropton Sever: Lady Penrhyn  8 Aug  1788 1365
Pukapuka Alvaro de Mendana de Neira: San Geronimo 20 Aug 1595 1315
Rakahanga Ferdinand Magellan [?]: Trinidad Feb 1521 1248
Suwarrow Mikhail Lazarev: Suvorov 17 Sep 1814 930
Tema Reef John Byron: HMS Dolphin 21 Jun 1765 1340

In 1901 administrative control was transferred to New Zealand. In 1965 the  Cook Islands became a self-governing parliamentary democracy of 15 small islands whose citizens are citizens of New Zealand with the status of Cook Islands nationals. New Zealand oversees the country's foreign relations and defence.

On 11 June 1980, the United States agreed on the maritime border between the Cook Islands and American Samoa and also relinquished claims to the islands of Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Manihiki, and Rakahanga.

In 1990 the maritime boundary between the Cook Islands and French Polynesia was ratified.

The Cook Islands Library and Museum on Rarotonga is a private organisation dedicated to the preservation of the history and culture of the Cook Islands. It is entirely run and funded by volunteers. It is a pay to access collection.

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