By the time he became ‘Sir’ Joseph Banks in 1781, the president of the Royal Society was a famous pillar of the scientific establishment. Just a few years earlier, however, Banks had achieved a much more complicated and disreputable form of celebrity. This was thanks to his ‘grand tour round the whole globe’ with James Cook on the famous Endeavour voyage to the Pacific (1768-71). This expedition had associated him with geographical and botanical achievements but it had also linked him to sex scandal, conspiracy theory and ruthless media manipulation. While Banks publicly boasted about his affairs with women in the Pacific, preparations for a second voyage were surrounded by acrimony, with suggestions that public money was being used for vanity projects met by accusations of government corruption and cover-up.
What did ordinary readers think Banks had got up to on the Endeavour and why did so many British people see the Cook voyages as scandalous? How could readers know what to believe in new media forms where nothing was quite what it appeared to be? How were ideas of ‘discovery’ and ‘progress’ shaped by this world of ephemeral gossip and deception?
Join us for a free online talk exploring gossip, notoriety and mythmaking in the 1770s. Dr Ruth Scobie (University of Oxford) will examine Banks’ public image using newspapers, caricatures and satires, showing how it influenced Enlightenment science and eco-colonialism.
This event is free and open to everyone, and will take place via Zoom. There is no need to book; please click on the button below shortly before 5:15pm on the day.