Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp Book Launch

Drew Hutton, Green historian and activist, will launch Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp by Dr John Jiggens at Avid Reader, Boundary Street, West End, on Tuesday April 24 at 6pm.

Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp examines the way the hemp question directed Britain’s colonial policy and naval strategy between 1776 and 1815, a period when Britain lost its first empire in the US and began a second empire, centred on the Pacific.

It argues that New South Wales was intended as a replacement hemp colony for the US. The convicts were a cover story. ‘The Father of Australia’ Sir Joseph Banks was a cannabis zealot, who, together with his protégé Governor Philip King, was responsible for the cultivation of tens of acres of cannabis on the banks of the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers in the 1800s.

Although Banks was primarily interested in hemp as a fibre crop, he was also intrigued with drug cannabis or ganga. Banks was regularly sent quantities of hashish from James Matra, the British consul in Tangiers. The poet and early drug enthusiast, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, found out about Banks’ stash of hashish and got Banks to send him a quantity. Coleridge later wrote an account of his experience, which is the first recorded use of drug cannabis in England. This, of course, makes Banks the first supplier of drug cannabis in England.

If you can’t make it to the launch, ask your book shop to get Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp.

Or ask your library to get a copy of Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp.

John  Jiggens

Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp Avid Reader, Tuesday 24 April, 6pm.

3 thoughts on “Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp Book Launch

  1. I have never heard anything more bizarre. Did this historian originate from Nimbin. The official reason that Cook came to Australia only once was as part of a southern expedition to observe the transit of Venus. I suspect he also returned to tell his King that it was a great place to transport the flotsam.

  2. The only connection between Cook and the subject of the book is that Cook discovered the land. Jurgen does not say that Cook had anything to do with hemp. Did you miss the strong and valid comparison between hemp then and oil now?

  3. Sam Coleridge says:

    [Editor’s Note: I include Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan here because of the drug deal mentioned in John Jiggens book. “The poet and early drug enthusiast, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, found out about Banks’ stash of hashish and got Banks to send him a quantity”. Kubla Khan is one of the first instances of Romanticism in English poetry. While at home recovering from a bout of glandular fever, I learnt this poem off by heart. I was 14 years of age and it has stayed with me ever since. Perhaps, as my friends constantly say, I just never grew up. And in case you are wondering I never needed to take any drugs to appreciate this poem or Coleridge’s other great poem — Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Ian Curr]

    In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.

    So twice five miles of fertile ground
    With walls and towers were girdled round:
    And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
    Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
    And here were forests ancient as the hills,
    Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

    But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
    Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
    A savage place! as holy and enchanted
    As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
    By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
    And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
    As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
    A mighty fountain momently was forced:
    Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
    Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
    Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
    And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
    It flung up momently the sacred river.
    Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
    Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
    Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
    And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
    And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
    Ancestral voices prophesying war!

    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
    It was a miracle of rare device,
    A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

    A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ‘twould win me
    That with music loud and long
    I would build that dome in air,
    That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
    And all who heard should see them there,
    And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice,
    And close your eyes with holy dread,
    For he on honey-dew hath fed
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.

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