Captain James Cook is a symbol of stability of the British Empire, the Sea Lord whose life was a real dramatic story full of adventures and discoveries. His portrait by John Webber, an English artist who accompanied Captain Cook on his third Pacific expedition, is a true masterpiece of portraiture in modern times. Webber knew the great explorer, deeply respected him and, like many Britons, admired this remarkable man. Cook’s biography was and still is well-known across Britain. He was the son of a farm laborer and former apprentice at the merchant navy. But so proud, stubborn and so selflessly devoted to the sea, James Cook broke all canons of the naval hierarchy and became part of the British naval elite during British expansion.
For more than two centuries his fate has been captivating the imagination of those who respect his great ambition and dedication, guided by Cook’s words: “Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again”.
The lecture took place on 16 June 2016 at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow as part of the lecture programme "400 years of British history in portraits".
Dmitry Kopelev is an assistant professor of the History Department of the Faculty of Social Sciences (Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia). His sphere of academic interests include piracy and privateering in XVI-XIX centuries, the Age of Discovery, problems of European expansion in the context of maritime powers’ fight for control of the colonies and sea communications (XVI century – first half of the XIX century). In 2013 he was nominated for the most prestigious award for non-fiction literature – “Prosvetitel award” for his book “The history of piracy in XVI – XIX centuries”.