Ben Oliver


The Multifarious Mr. Banks

From Botany Bay to Kew, The Natural Historian Who Shaped the World
09 October 2020

I promise this is the last I’m writing about Joseph Banks in a while! Please indulge me, having spent the last few weeks reading about the man it would be mad to ignore a book published just this year about him.

Initially starting as a straight biography, Musgrave unpicks Banks’ life after the voyage with James Cook and tells each story on its own, regardless of chronology. In doing so he paints a vivid picture of the profound effect Banks had on history, mainly as an enabler of others’ work rather than as a published scientist.

Over time this could become the go-to book on Banks. O’Brian’s1 account of his seafaring voyages are more riveting than Musgrave’s, but this book’s account of the rest of his life is far more accomplished.

A thoroughly researched and well written biography, perhaps the best introduction to one of the more interesting and often overlooked figures in British history.