Joseph Banks, Science, Culture and the Remaking of the Indo-Pacific World

This Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research network project will bring together international, interdisciplinary scholars to discuss new avenues of research on Joseph Banks and the Indo-Pacific World

Joseph Banks, Science, Culture and the Remaking of the Indo-Pacific World commenced on 1 June 2016, and is led by the National Maritime Museum and University College London, together with project partners the Royal Society, the National Portrait Gallery and others.

A programme of three workshops and a conference will include early-career and established scholars from the academic and heritage sectors who will draw in the histories of science, exploration, art, material culture and the environment, and engage closely with a range of key public collections.

The ultimate aim of the network alongside other outputs, is to develop a major grant application that will be able to absorb a more integrated and complex vision of Banks, in the build-up to the 200th anniversary of his death that will take place in 2020.

Steering committee

The project programme is being co-ordinated by:

  • Nigel Rigby (National Maritime Museum), PI
  • Simon Werrett (University College, London), CI
  • Jordan Goodman (University College London)
  • Lucy Peltz (National Portrait Gallery)
  • Keith Moore (Royal Society)
  • Sally Archer (National Maritime Museum)

Research outline

Joseph Banks has been a subject of considerable research over the last 20-30 years. In a career spanning more than 50 years he became one of the most influential figures in European science.

Through Banks’ participation in James Cook’s first Pacific voyage (1768–1771), he received much of the credit for descriptions of a ‘new’ and exotic oceanic world that fascinated Europe, and would come to influence the course of European and Pacific science, culture, politics and commerce.

After the voyage, Banks spent the remainder of his career supporting expeditions and forging networks that spanned the Indian and Pacific Oceans, placing him at the heart of accelerating interactions between Pacific, Indian and European peoples.

This funded network project will explore how these interactions transformed the economy, religion, culture and natural knowledge of the region, contributing to a remaking of the Indo-Pacific world.

While many scholars have studied Banks’ activities in specific regions such as China, Australia, or India, this project will develop a more integrated vision of Joseph Banks by locating him in this history of the remaking of the Indo-Pacific world.

Programme of workshops

Three two-day workshops hosted by UCL, National Portrait Gallery and NMM will bring together 25-30 scholars each, with a limited number of ‘open’ spaces.

A small number of AHRC-funded bursaries for post-graduates will also be available for each workshop. Further announcements will be made in due course.

Workshop 1: Rethinking Joseph Banks: New Directions for Research

10-11 November 2016, University College London (UCL)

The historiography of Joseph Banks will be considered, including Banks and the Indo-Pacific World; and Banks, science and empire.

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Convenor: Simon Werrett, UCL.


  • Janet Browne, Harvard University
  • Jordan Goodman, UCL
  • David Lambert, University of Warwick
  • Edwin Rose, University of Cambridge
  • Amiria Salmond, University of Auckland
  • Daniel Simpson, Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sujit Sivasundaram, University of Cambridge
  • Vanessa Smith, University of Sydney

Workshop 2: Science, Self-fashioning and Representation in Joseph Banks’s Circles

26-27 January 2017, the National Portrait Gallery

This workshop will focus on:

  • Banks, image making and representation
  • The spaces and symbols of scientific sociability
  • Patronage, specimens and scientific networks.

Convenor: Lucy Peltz, National Portrait Gallery


  • John Bonehill, University of Glasgow
  • Julien Domerq, National Gallery, London
  • Sarah Easterby Smith, University of St Andrews
  • Patricia Fara, University of Cambridge
  • Jordan Goodman, UCL
  • Michelle Hetherington, National Museum of Australia
  • Arlene Leis, independent scholar
  • James Taylor, independent scholar
  • Carl Thompson, St Mary’s University, Twickenham
  • Beth Tobin, Georgia University
  • Ruth Scobie, University of Oxford

Workshop 3: The maritime worlds of Joseph Banks

17-18 February 2017, National Maritime Museum (NMM)

This workshop will focus on Banks’s maritime world, examining his role and influence in the scientific exploration of the Indo-Pacific region in both British and European contexts through state-funded, private and commercial voyages.

It will explore the material, visual and literary cultures linking Banks to exploration, and his vision for the establishment and integration of overseas colonies for the purpose of furthering scientific endeavour.

Convenor: Nigel Rigby, NMM


  • Robert Batchelor, Georgia Southern University
  • Daniel Clayton, University of St Andrews
  • James Davey, NMM
  • Jordan Goodman, UCL
  • John McAleer, University of Southampton
  • Katherine Parker, University of Pittsburgh
  • Geoff Quilley, University of Sussex
  • Philip Stern, Duke University

Conference: Joseph Banks: Science, Culture and Exploration

A much larger, open conference will take place at the Royal Society on 14–15 September 2017 as the culmination of the network project.

We are delighted that the following have agreed to give keynote addresses at the conference:

  • Professor David Igler, University of California, Irvine
  • Professor Kapil Raj, Centre Alexandre-Koyré

Call for Papers

We hope that the conference will attract speakers from a range of historical disciplines – including the histories of science, culture, art, anthropology and the maritime world – and will reflect the global contexts of Banks’s interests, influence and legacies. We are particularly keen to receive proposals that see Banks as a starting point for new scholarly understandings of the worlds in which he moved, and anticipate that the conference will bring a broader and more nuanced appreciation of this energetic and powerful figure.

It is also anticipated that this conference will play an important part in the development of a larger research project.

Guidelines for submitting a proposal

Proposals from both the heritage and higher education sectors are encouraged, and we anticipate that at least a selection of the papers given at the conference will be published.

Proposals should include a title and abstract of no more than 500 words.

We are still accepting proposals for papers for the conference –  please contact Sally Archer for more details.

To submit a proposal or to find out more and how you could be part of the project, email:

Sally Archer, Project Co-ordinator: