New Britain, volcanic island (1990 pop. 315,649), c.14,600 sq mi (37,810 sq km), SW Pacific, largest island of the Bismarck Archipelago and part of Papua New Guinea, in which it forms two provinces (East and West New Britain). Rabaul is the chief town and port. The island is mountainous, with active volcanoes, hot springs, and peaks over 7,000 ft (2,130 m) high. The major export is copra, and some copper, gold, iron, and coal are mined.
Visited and named by the English explorer William Dampier in 1700, New Britain became part of German New Guinea in 1884. Germany called it Neu Pommern (New Pomerania). In 1920 it was mandated to Australia by the League of Nations and in 1947 was made a UN trust territory under Australian control. In 1937 and again in 1994 Rabaul was severely damaged by volcanic activity.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.