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After Cook: Joseph Banks and his travelling natures, 1787–1810

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The death of Captain James Cook in February 1779 deprived Britain of one of its finest navigators but the voyage continued. For Joseph Banks, the voyage of the Resolution and the Discovery, in which he had a part, was the beginning of a new relationship with the Admiralty and a new chapter in the history of botanical knowledge.

Banks never went to sea again after 1773. For the rest of his life the sea was at the heart of what he loved to do most. From 1778, when he was elected President of the Royal Society, Banks intervened in all of the Admiralty voyages of exploration making them his kind of scientific project: he selected vital personnel, including gardeners, botanists and artists; he wrote out instructions for commanders; and most importantly, he changed the architecture of the ships by commandeering space, by turning them into ‘floating gardens’, moving plants from one part of the world to the other, and supplying King George III ’s Royal Gardens at Kew with exotic plants unique in Europe. But it wasn’t just Admiralty ships that saw the visible hand of Banks. In 1798, the East India Company agreed to let Banks use one of their ships to move plants between Kew and Calcutta, an unprecedented and successful project. With similar techniques, Banks moved plants between Kew and Canton from 1803 and 1810.

This paper on the world of Banks and his travelling natures will draw on two Admiralty voyages and one East India Company voyage.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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