Thomas Witlam Atkinson (1799-1861) and Lucy Atkinson (1818-1893) are two of the greatest travellers and explorers of the nineteenth century. Now almost forgotten, their reputations deserve to be revived. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, over the course of seven years, they travelled – mostly on horseback – around 40,000 miles through what is now Siberia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and north-west China. In 1848 Lucy gave birth to a son in a remote part of what is now Eastern Kazakhstan. The boy, named Alatau Tamchiboulac Atkinson, accompanied his parents throughout their remarkable journeys.
Both Thomas and Lucy wrote books on their travels. Thomas published Oriental and Western Siberia in 1858 and Travels in the Regions of the Upper and Lower Amoor in 1860. Lucy published Recollections of Tartar Steppes in 1863. In addition Thomas produced an incredible body of artistic work – around 500 watercolours and sketches illustrating the people and places he had seen. These paintings can now be found in some of the greatest museums in the world, including the Hermitage in St Petersburg, The Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Two of Thomas’ painting hang in the dining room of the Royal Geographical Society in London.
For some years I have been tracing the routes travelled by Thomas and Lucy with the aim of bringing their achievements to a wider public. In 2015 I published South to the Great Steppe: the travels of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson in Eastern Kazakhstan 1847-52, which covered just part of their adventures. My aim now is to produce a full biography of the couple. It is also my intention to restore their reputations and to highlight their achievements. If you are interested in this project, please get in touch. There are many avenues of research that remain unexplored. I would particularly like to hear from Russian speakers or anyone who is able to research Russian archives, where I believe a great deal of relevant material remains to be discovered.
In the meantime I will continue to publish information on this blog that sheds light on the life and times of the Atkinsons. The blog is open to anyone who wishes to contribute.