Two hundred years ago, Cannabis sativa, hemp, was the most important plant on the planet. As the basis for sail and rope, hemp was as strategic in the Age of Sail as oil is in our era. Just as oil supplies and alternatives to oil occupy some of the greatest minds of our era, two hundred years ago, Sir Joseph Banks, ‘the Father of Australia’, Britain’s ‘presiding genius’, was preoccupied with hemp supplies and alternatives to hemp.
Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp examines the way the Question of Hemp directed Britain’s colonial policy and the outcome of naval warfare during the American Revolutionary War through to the Napoleonic Wars, a period when Britain lost its first empire in the US and began a second empire, centred on the Pacific.
Using previously unpublished documents on the Hemp Question by Sir Joseph Banks, Dr Jiggens argues that the settlement of the Pacific was for the purpose of hemp, and the convicts at Botany Bay were a cover story to mislead Britain’s rivals.