Joseph Banks and the English Enlightenment: Useful Knowledge and Polite Culture
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date :
1 Jan 1994
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.