06 Aug James Cook the explorer
‘James Cook: The Voyages’ is on at the British Library, London, until 28 August 2018. Pay a small fee and take a couple of hours walking through the life and times of one of the most famous explorers in history. The exhibition charts three voyages made by Cook who lived from 1728 to 1779: Voyage 1 1768 – 71, Voyage 2 1772 – 75, Voyage 3 1776 – 80.
The route is easy on the feet and filled with visual and aural delights. With original artefacts and detailed commentaries that explain the social, historical and geographical context to the voyages, you cannot help but be impressed by the brave pioneering spirit of the times. Akin to discovering new planets today the expeditions carried danger as well as reward. And, as we take a retrospective look at how the knowledge gained affected science and subsequent trade there are certain misgivings, certain guilts. Cook was instructed to annex newly discovered lands peaceably if possible, with force if not. Different views about the morals of such ventures continue to be debated but the accurate mapping of lands hitherto unknown to us meant safer passage to all seafarers who followed later.
’The 18th century in Europe was a time of burgeoning scientific discovery and technological development. The Enlightenment… sought rational explanations for all aspects of existence.’ (Exhibition guide.)
Spoiler alert! The dates will have given it away but just in case you didn’t know Captain Cook died on the last voyage.