248 pages, no illustrations
This volume completes a trilogy meant to be a commentary on the botanophilia that captured the literate public in 18th-century France. Enthusiastic public support for any governmental initiative likely to expand botanical knowledge was an expression of immense curiosity about the natural world beyond Europe, which extended into a curiosity about primitive people and cultures little known. It amounted to a quest for universal knowledge that could benefit all mankind: useful knowledge that could improve the human condition in this life. That was the spirit of the Enlightenment, the sciences believed to be the key to humanity's advancement. The botanists exploring abroad brought back exciting quantities of new species and genera, but also a message about the condition of primitive people that undercut the fashionable image of noble savagery. No matter how dispiriting were some of the conditions they observed abroad, they retained a faith that ignorance and superstition could be vanquished.
From the reviews: "William's book is the third in a trilogy devoted to the love of botany in eighteenth-century France ! . Of value are his translations of original printed documents connected with the voyage, and his detailed chronological record of events ! . The story of La Perouse's lost expedition and the trials and tribulations of those who went in search of it is inevitably a moving and exciting one, well recounted here." (Emma Spary, British Society for the History of Science, 2005)
Introduction.- Royal Instructions for Scientific Exploration.- The French Gardener Overseas.- The Voyage of La Perouse: Part 1: From Brest to Monterey Bay.- Part 2: From Monterey to Botany Bay. Adventures and Misadventures: The Bizarre Story of the Dupetit Thouars Brothers. The Voyage of Entrecasteaux: Part 1: Genesis and Preparation. Part 2: From Brest to Tasmania.- Part 3: New Calidonia to Ambon.- Part 4: Esperance Bay.- Part 5: Tasmania Revisited.- Part 6: On to New Calidonia.- Part 7: Its Woeful End. Internment. From Explorer to Closet Botanist.- Epilogue.- Bibliography.- General Index.- Plant Index.
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