Joseph Banks's name is attached to various plant species around the world; he was President of the Royal Society, a Privy Councillor and adviser to the English government on a range of scientific and imperial issues. He was a driving force in the establishment of a penal colony at Botany Bay. Yet there are few monuments to him, and while he has been the subject of a number of biographies, these have been focused on his personal career rather than his relations to some of the movements of the period. This book places the work of Joseph Banks in the context of the Enlightenment. Banks's relation to major scientific and cultural currents in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century British society is explored through a number of thematic chapters. These deal with the cultural ideal of the 'virtuoso' and the pursuit of natural history and anthropology, the practice of 'improvement' and the forces which contributed to the waning of the Enlightenment in England.
"As a whole, the book illustrates very well how enlightened ideas of rational and empirical investigation, oriented to human improvement, could be accommodated within the eighteenth-century social and political order. Of course, this is not the entire story of science in its social and political relations in this period; but, within its limits, it is a fine demonstration of what 'polite science' meant...it would be an excellent aid in teaching not just the history of science but courses on the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century history and culture generally." Journal of Modern History "...this insightful study of the Banksian world represents another powerful step toward understanding the shape, both intellectual and institutional, of the still-forgotten English Enlightenment, and especially the changing part played in it by late Baconian science." American Historical Review "Gascoigne has organized a great deal of fascinating material about Banks and his period in support of this argument. One can undoubtedly learn a lot about Banks and his setting from this attractive volume." Albion "Although a growing Banks industry has explored his involvement as a major player in the game of science and empire...this book will serve as an excellent introduction." Joy Harvey, Times Literary Supplement "Gascoigne has organized a great deal of fascinating material about Banks and his period in support of this argument. He draws upon manuscript collections in Europe, North America, and Australia, and his coverage of the relevant secondary sources is also very full...One can undoubtedly learn a lot about Banks and his setting from this attractive volume." Jan Golinski, Albion