Call for Papers: Joseph Banks and the British Empire

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on September 13, 2010

Exploring Empire: Sir Joseph Banks, India, and the ‘Great Pacific Ocean’:
Science, Travel, Trade, Literature, and Culture, 1768–1820

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (London), 24-25 June 2011

Proposals due 1 November 2010

Plenary speakers: Professor Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge) and Dr Jeremy Coote (Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)

In 1768, Sir Joseph Banks sailed around the world with Captain Cook and in doing so inaugurated a new era in British exploration, empire and science. As a botanist, man of science, adviser of the monarch and of ministers, and as President of the Royal Society, Banks became a central figure in the expansion in discovery and settlement that took place in the Indo-Pacific region from 1768 to 1820. Through his correspondence with fellow men of science and with government agents, Banks promoted the exchange of knowledge about flora, fauna and human cultures new to Europeans. He was a prime mover in the development of natural philosophy, ethnology, collecting and its global organization, travel and exploration, the publication and illustration of natural history and other mission findings, the development of knowledge within the eighteenth-century Republic of Letters, imperial policy making and the practical uses of science by the state. He planned, for instance, the colonization of Australia and shaped the extension of British imperial influence through India and Polynesia. His activities brought Britons into contact with peoples, countries, plants and animals previously unknown to them, and this contact had major effects on indigenous societies and ecosystems. It also stimulated major cultural interest at home, and this is apparent in the new, Romantic, turn in literature and visual art, whether in Shelley’s Frankenstein, Byron’s The Island, Southey’s The Curse of Kehama and in the paintings of Pacific mission artists Hodges and Westall. (more…)

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