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Archipelago (pop., 2002: 214,445), western French Polynesia, South Pacific Ocean. 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 1786 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.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Society Islands, visit Britannica.com.