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Free Lecture May 4: Intersecting Worlds of Trade, Politics, Plant Introductions and Botanical Art

1 year 37 weeks ago
Join us for this special lecture by Dr. Barbara Pickersgill, Prefessor Emeritus, University of Reading, UK, which will focus on spices, cotton, tea, the British East India Company, and the Botanical Art of John Bradby Blake.

A wine and cheese reception will follow the lecture. Sponsored by Cornell Botanic Gardens, Cornell Plant Biology & Horticulture.

Date/time: Thursday, May 4; 4:30 p.m.
Location: Room 404 in the Plant Sciences Building on Cornell Campus
Cost: Free and pre-registration is not required.

In 1600, the British East India Company was founded to compete with the Portuguese and Dutch over the lucrative trade in spices from the Indian subcontinent and the East Indies.  After murder by the Dutch of some Company employees, British (and French) interest switched to introduction of spices and other Far Eastern crops, often clandestinely obtained, to their colonies overseas.  The East India Company withdrew from trade with the Spice Islands and concentrated instead on exporting cotton textiles and silk from India to Britain.  This became a threat to the British woollen industry, so was prohibited in 1700.  This prohibition coincided with the rise in tea drinking in Britain, so the East India Company turned to trading cotton goods and opium from India to China in exchange for tea.

In 1766, John Bradby Blake went to Canton as an employee of the East India Company. He conceived the ambitious project of drawing from nature “all useful plants” and collecting living material and seeds of these to be sent back to England, to be grown there or transmitted to suitable colonies in America.  However, Bradby Blake’s principal legacy is his portfolio of over 50 paintings, scientifically accurate and beautifully coloured, of the plants brought to him, while he was in China, by his various contacts.