"New" and "Old" Countries

Places Named After Geographic Locations in the Old Country

The statue of Liberty in front of New York City's World Trade Center

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What is the geographic connection between the province of Nova Scotia in Canada and French New Caledonia in the Pacific Ocean? The connection is in their names.

Immigration and the New World

Have you ever wondered why in many of the world's centers of immigration—like the U.S., Canada, and Australia—there are plenty of settlements with names like New Denmark, New Sweden, New Norway, or New Germany? Even one of the Australian states is named New South Wales. These many geographical places with "new" in the name—New York, New England, New Jersey and many others in the New World—are named after "original" ones from the Old World.

After the "discovery" of the Americas, a necessity for new names appeared, and the blank map needed to be filled in. Very often the new places were named after European geographical locations by just adding "new" to the original name. There are possible explanations for this choice—a desire for commemoration, a feeling of homesickness, for political reasons, or due to the presence of physical similarities. It often turns out that the namesakes are more famous than the original ones, yet there a few "new" places that have disappeared in history.

"New" Places in American Geography

New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico are the four "new" states in the U.S. New York City, which gave the name to the state, has an interesting story. The English city of York is the "father" of its more famous new version. Before becoming part of the British North American colonies, New York was the capital of the colony known as New Netherland, with the capital city at New Amsterdam, which is today Manhattan.

The small county Hampshire in the south of England gave its name to New Hampshire, in New England. The British crown dependency Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, is the "original" of New Jersey. Only in the case of New Mexico, there is no transatlantic connection. Its name has an easily explained origin related to the history of U.S. and Mexico relations.

There is also the case of New Orleans, the largest city in Louisiana, which historically has French origins. Being part of New France (present-day Louisiana) the city was named after an important man, the Duke of Orleans. Orleans is a city in the Loire valley in central France.

"Old" Spain With "New" Connections

New Granada was a Spanish viceroyalty in Latin America from 1717 to 1819 that encompassed the territories of modern-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. The original Granada is a city and an important historical place in Andalusia, Spain.

Speaking of Spain, we have to mention the idea of New Spain, another example of a former overseas territory named after a country. New Spain consisted of the present-day Central American countries, some Caribbean islands and southwestern parts of the U.S. Its existence lasted exactly 300 years. Officially, it was established immediately after the collapse of the Aztec Empire in 1521 and ended with Mexico's independence in 1821.

"New" Places With U.K. Names

New England is not the only region named for places in the U.K. The Romans labeled Scotland as Caledonia, so the present French New Caledonia island in the Pacific is a "new" version of Scotland, just like Nova Scotia. New Britain and New Ireland are islands in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. The name New Guinea itself is chosen because of the natural similarities between the island and the Guinea region in Africa. The outdated British colonial name of the Pacific nation Vanuatu is New Hebrides. The "old" Hebrides are an archipelago off the west coast of Great Britain.

Naming Conventions in Oceania

Zealand is the largest Danish island on which the capital city Copenhagen is located. However, the country of New Zealand was named by the Dutch after the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands. Either way, New Zealand is a larger and more famous place than its European namesakes.

Similarly, New Holland was Australia's name for almost two centuries. The name was suggested by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman in 1644. Holland is presently part of the Netherlands. New Australia is a utopian settlement established in Paraguay by Australian socialists at the end of the nineteenth century.