The Doctrine of Discovery

Robert J Miller, Jacinta Ruru, Larissa Behrendt and Tracey Lindberg

in Discovering Indigenous Lands

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199579815
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191594465 | DOI:
The Doctrine of Discovery

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This book shines new light on the mostly ignored historical and legal evidence of the use of the Doctrine of Discovery in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. In these countries, Christian Europeans assumed that they held sovereign, property, and commercial rights over the indigenous peoples under the ‘legal authority’ of the Doctrine. This chapter examines the development of Discovery in Europe, focusing on England's role in that development and its use of the Doctrine in these four English colonies. It also sets out the elements of Discovery to explain its underpinnings and definition and to explain how it was used in these four countries to acquire the rights of indigenous peoples. These four countries still struggle to deal with indigenous peoples and, in fact, they were the only countries to vote against the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Keywords: Doctrine of Discovery; Johnson v. M'Intosh; terra nullius; conquest; pre-emption; conquest of Ireland; Captain James Cook

Chapter.  12541 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration

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