Wolverhampton BTW

Thomas Edward Bowdich

Bowdich, Thomas Edward, c.1791—1824

by Benjamin Colbert

Thomas Edward Bowdich was born in Bristol, the son of Thomas Bowdich, milliner and merchant, and his wife, née Vaughan. In 1813, he married Sarah Wallis Bowdich, later Lee (1791–1856; ODNB). Both were keen riders, and explored Wales together on horseback.

In 1814, Bowdich was appointed to a writership in the Royal African Company and he sailed to Cape Coast Castle in late 1815, Sarah and their infant daughter Florence following in 1816. In the meantime, Thomas had sailed for England and, during their time apart, Florence died of a fever. Reunited, husband and wife embarked on a mission to Asante, where Bowdich concluded a treaty with the Asante king. In 1818 they returned to London, where he published A Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee (1819) followed by an exposé of corruption at the African Company, The African Committee (1819).

That year the Bowdiches relocated to Paris, where they became friends with Cuvier, Denon, Humboldt, and other scientists and travellers. Funded by their several publications, Bowdich prepared for a second African expedition. With their two children born during this period, they departed in 1822, pausing in Lisbon where Bowdich collected materials for his Account of the Discoveries of the Portuguese in the Interior of Angola and Mozambique (1824). They then passed 15 months in Madeira where a daughter was born, and arrived in Gambia in November 1823. Bowdich caught fever and died, January 1824. His account of this expedition, Excursions in Madeira and Porto Santo (1825), was published posthumously by his widow, Sarah Bowdich, with additions of her own.


Westby-Gibson, John, and Felix Driver. 'Bowdich, Thomas Edward (1791?–1824), writer and traveller in Africa'. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 19 May 2011. Oxford University Press. Web. 15 Sept. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/3027


Title Published
Excursions in Madeira and Porto Santo 1825

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