- Society Islands
a group of islands in the S Pacific: a part of French Polynesia; largest island, Tahiti. (Excluding minor islands) 100,270; 453 sq. mi. (1173 sq. km). Cap.: Papeete.
* * *Its chief island is Tahiti. The Society Islands comprise two groups, the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. They are volcanic in origin and mountainous. Claimed for Britain in 1767, the islands were visited in 1769 by Capt. James Cook with a scientific expedition of the Royal Society (hence their name). They were claimed by France in 1768 and became a French protectorate in 1842, a French colony in 1881, and a part of French Oceania in 1903. Their chief products are copra and pearls.
* * *French Îles de la Sociétéarchipelago within French Polynesia in the central South Pacific Ocean. Extending some 450 miles (725 km) in length, it is divided into two island clusters, the Îles du Vent (Vent, Îles du) (Windward Islands) and the Îles Sous le Vent (Sous le Vent, Îles) (Leeward Islands). The largest and best known of the Society Islands is Tahiti, in the Îles du Vent; Moorea is another notable island in the group. Raiatea is the principal island in the Îles Sous le Vent group, which also includes Bora-Bora.Claimed for Britain by Capt. Samuel Wallis (1767) and for France by Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (Bougainville, Louis-Antoine de) (1768), the islands were also visited (1769) by Capt. James Cook (Cook, James) with a scientific expedition of the Royal Society (whence their name). The islands became first a French protectorate (1842), then a colony (1881), and eventually a part of French Oceania (1903). The Îles du Vent and the Îles Sous le Vent became administrative divisions of French Polynesia in 1946. Pop. (2002) 214,445.
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