Endeavour: The Ship and the Attitude that Changed the World

Written by Peter Moore (author)
Review by Margaret Skea

Ranked among ships of historic note—Drake’s Golden Hind, Bligh’s Bounty, Franklin’s Erebus, Titanic—is the Endeavour, in which Lieutenant James Cook first sailed to the South Seas. Likely less well known is the original reason for the voyage: to observe the transit of Venus, other key characters such as the botanist, Joseph Banks, and the chequered history of the ship itself, both in name and purpose—from its inception as a collier to its demise: scuttled off Rhode Island.

While charting the ship’s fourteen-year service in all its guises, Moore explores wide-ranging events in the social, political and economic history of the era. He presents a huge cast of characters, along with a wealth of statistics and technical detail, some of which can, for a non-specialist, be hard to follow. Though individual elements are fascinating, and the book peppered with vivid description—colliers ‘lumbering like the elephants in Hannibal’s army’ and Banks collecting specimens with the ‘cheer and spring of a parson on Easter Sunday’, both scope and complexity render it unsuitable for the casual reader. With almost seventy pages of bibliography, notes and index, it is recommended for those who appreciate well-written, rigorously researched, broad-sweep history.