Sex, Botany and Empire
Enlightenment botany was replete with sexual symbolism--to the extent that many botanical textbooks were widely considered pornographic. Carl Linnaeus's controversial new system for classifying plants based on their sexual characteristics, as well as his use of language resonating with erotic allusions, provoked intense public debate over the morality of botanical study. And the renowned Tahitian exploits of Joseph Banks--whose trousers were reportedly stolen while he was inside the tent of Queen Oberea of Tahiti--reinforced scandalous associations with the field. Yet Linnaeus and Banks became powerful political and scientific figures who were able to promote botanical exploration alongside the exploitation of territories, peoples, and natural resources. Sex, Botany, and Empire explores the entwined destinies of these two men and how their influence served both science and imperialism.