The ship and the attitude that changed the world
Centred around Captain James Cook’s first South Sea voyages (1768 – 1771) from a historian who leaves no stone unturned to discover the ship and the attitude that shaped the western world.
The Enlightenment was an age of endeavours. From Johnson’s Dictionary to campaigns for liberty to schemes for measuring the dimensions of the solar system, Britain was consumed by the impulse for grand projects, undertaken at speed. ‘Endeavour’ was also the name given to a Whitby collier bought by the Royal Navy in 1768 for an expedition to the South Seas. A commonplace, coal-carrying vessel, no one could have guessed that Endeavour would go on to become the most significant ship in the history of British exploration.
Endeavour famously carried James Cook on his first great voyage, visiting Pacific islands unknown to European geography, charting for the first time New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia and almost foundering on the Great Barrier Reef. But Endeavour was a ship with many lives. She was there at the Wilkes Riots in London in 1768. During the battles for control of New York in 1776 she witnessed the bloody birth of the United States of America. As well as carrying botanists, a Polynesian priest and the remains of the first kangaroo to arrive in Britain, she transported Newcastle coal and Hessian soldiers. According to Charles Darwin, she helped Cook add a hemisphere to the civilised world. NASA named a space shuttle after her. To others she would be a toxic symbol, responsible for the dispossession of the oldest continuous human society and the disruption of many others.
No one has ever told Endeavour’s complete story before. Peter Moore sets out to explore the different lives of this remarkable ship, from the acorn that grew into the oak that made her, to her rich and complex legacy.
“Fascinating and richly detailed ... Peter Moore has brought us an acute insight into the ship that carried some of the most successful explorers across the world. A fine book that’s definitely worth exploring.”
“Moore’s richly detailed book is an engrossing love letter to a word, an attitude and a ship: it is an endeavour that honours Endeavour, without denying the death and destruction that followed in her wake.”
Ruth Scurr, The Guardian
“This is a wonderful book, a perfect pleasure to read, and an expression itself of great skill.”
Alan Atkinson, Australian Book Review
“Peter Moore’s elegant and entertaining new book offers us a fascinating biography of the Endeavour, using it as a window onto the broader world of the mid-18th-century English Enlightenment. Endeavour is a deeply satisfying book. It represents an intelligent, diverse, fresh and challenging approach to writing the history of exploration. Paying homage to the remarkable lives of a single vessel, Peter Moore also gives the Endeavour a new lease of life long after its sinking.”
Robert Mayhew, Literary Review
“Moore considers the existence and meaning of Endeavour from every possible angle, meditating on the significance of the name as well as examining the materials — English oak, mostly — from which it was made. Indeed, the first chapter begins with a vivid description of the life cycle of an acorn. Moore’s brilliant book is proof of his contention that there is something special about this ship. Moore writes: “There is an enduring magic about Endeavour’s story that continues to propel people into ambitious projects. It is almost as if the force of the untethered, freewheeling, Georgian society to which the ship belonged is so powerful that it is capable of reaching generations, transferring, and making more endeavours of new people in different times or places.””
Simon Caterson, The Australian
“What a truly remarkable book this is. Those who think they know the story of Captain Cook and the Endeavour are in for an exhilarating shock. This is a brilliant biography of an idea as well as a ship. By focusing on the Endeavour from the acorn to the grave, as well on the kaleidoscope of people and culture connected with her, Peter Moore has brought us a book that is entirely fresh and original. In lucid prose, he shows how this stalwart, unpretentious, little coal bark came to embody the Age of Exploration, of Enlightenment, of Empire, and of Revolution. Among other surprises, we learn of the layered significance of the ship’s naming and of the wild populist riots that influenced it, of the crucial navigational genius and political tact of Cook’s Polynesian guest, Tupaia, and of how the ship, now renamed, featured heroically in British attempts to defeat the rebellious American colonists and in twentieth-century American attempts to explore outer space.”
Iain McCalman, author of Darwin’s Armada and The Reef-A Passionate History.
“Endeavour is a dazzling combination of science and adventure, lyrically evocative descriptions of lush tropical landscapes and salt-stung seascapes, and a portrait of an age of “magnificent geniality”. Take the goat that sailed with Cook, having already been once around the world with Samuel Wallis aboard the Dolphin. The ship was a jolly jack-tar, and the goat “never went dry during the whole voyage”. So a grateful nation rewarded it “by placing her in good English pasture for the rest of her life”, while Dr Johnson wrote a lavish encomium to her — in Latin, obviously. Endeavour is an absolute joy from start to finish, and surely my history book of the year.”
Christopher Hart, The Times (UK)
“Pays brilliant tribute to what was arguably the most significant ship in the history of British exploration.”
Nick Rennison, Daily Mail
“Moore’s approach is lavishly digressive… A rollicking yarn.”
Lewis Jones, Sunday Telegraph
“Endeavour was more than merely the first English vessel to reach New Zealand and Australia's east coast. She was also a floating laboratory, a vast seed-bank and an international observatory...the spirit of Enlightenment under sail.”
“Endeavour is an extraordinary book about an unlikely ship that defined an age... Like the age it recounts, it is a book of energy, creativity and self-confidence”
Gerard DeGroot, The Times (UK)
“[An] extraordinary story… [and] a fascinating period of history”
Chris Burns, Yorkshire Post
“Moore has found himself the perfect symbols and focus for that ‘mini epoch’ of push, ambition and… ‘endeavour’ that coincided with the ship’s chequered 14-year existence”
David Crane, Spectator