Henry Lansdell

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Henry Lansdell
Henry Lansdell 1841-1919.png
Lansdell in Kokand armour with saddle cloth presented by the Emir of Bukhara
Born(1841-01-10)10 January 1841
Tenterden, Kent, UK
Died10 April 1919(1919-04-10) (aged 78)
Resting placeSt Mary's Church, Greenwich, London, UK
41°01′37″N 73°37′34″W / 41.027°N 73.626°W / 41.027; -73.626
Known forExploration of Central Asia

Henry Lansdell (10 January 1841 – 4 October 1919) was a nineteenth-century British priest in the Church of England. He was also a noted explorer and author.


Born in Tenterden, Kent, Lansdell was the son of a schoolmaster and home schooled before attending St John's College in Highbury, north London.[1] He then studied at the London College of Divinity before his ordination as a deacon in 1868 and his assignment as a curate in Greenwich. He subsequently became secretary to the Irish Church Missions (1869–79) and founder and honorary secretary of the Homiletical Society (1874–86).[2] He established the Clergyman's Magazine in 1875, which he edited until 1883.[1]

After spending holidays in Europe, Lansdell began long and often arduous journeys to little-known parts of Asia. He distributed multi-lingual religious tracts and bibles provided by London missionary societies wherever he went, most notably in prisons and hospitals in Siberia and central Asia.[3] Such activities sometimes aroused the suspicions of the Russian authorities and on one occasion he was arrested while travelling on the Perm Railway after it was thought he was distributing revolutionary pamphlets.[4]

Lansdell's accounts of his travels across the Central Asian Steppe published in 1887 by Harper's Magazine describe in detail the Turko-Tartar, Caucasian and ethnic diversity of the region, as well as the geographic, topographic and climate diversity.[5]

Lansdell's journey from Hotan to Yarkand in present-day Xinjiang "across deserts abominable" was probably the first by any Englishman.[6]

He was the author of a number of books including Chinese Central Asia: A Ride to Little Tibet, which ran to five editions in English and was also translated into German, Danish, and Swedish. The two volumes recorded part of Lansdell's 5,000-mile (8,000 km) journey through Europe and Africa to Asia. He travelled from Lake Balkash through Kashgar to Little Tibet (now known as Baltistan) by horse and yak at heights of up to 18,000 feet (5,500 m), in the process crossing the entire mountain systems of Central Asia.[7] Lansdell's objective was to deliver a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Dalai Lama, which he hoped would grant him access to the then closed capital of Tibet at Lhasa. In the end he was unable to obtain the requisite permission and had to make do with purchasing items from a trader who had been to Tibet.[1]

Lansdell was a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, the Royal Geographical Society (elected 1876), and a life member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science on whose committee he served.[2]

He died on 4 October 1919 at home in Blackheath, London, and is buried in St Mary’s Church, Greenwich at his own request.[1]


In 1922, Lansdell's wife Mary bequeathed a large collection of items he had collected on his travels to Canterbury Museum (now Canterbury Heritage Museum) as "a memorial to my late husband".[1]


  • Henry Lansdell (1882). Through Siberia. New York: Arno Press. (2 volumes)
  • Henry Lansdell (1885). Russian Central Asia, Including Kuldja, Bokhara, Khiva and Merv. London: S. Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington. (2 volumes)
  • Henry Lansdell (1887). Sons of the Steppe (PDF). London: Harper's Magazine.
  • Henry Lansdell (1893). Chinese Central Asia – a Ride to Little Tibet. London: S. Low, Marston, & Co. (2 volumes)
  • Henry Lansdell (1906). The Sacred Tenth; Or, Studies in Tithe-giving, Ancient and Modern … With Portraits, Maps, Illustrations and Appendices, Containing a Bibliography on Tithe-giving, Etc. London.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Henry Lansdell". Visit Canterbury. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Baltic Russia". Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July 1890. Center for Baltic Heritage. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Through Siberia". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Foreign and Colonial Intelligence". Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette. British Newspaper Archive. 21 September 1882. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  5. ^ Lansdell, Henry (1887). The Sons of the Steppe (PDF). London: Harper's Magazine. p. 572.
  6. ^ "Untitled". Leeds Mercury. British Newspaper Archive. 22 December 1888. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Art and Letters". Dover Express. British Newspaper Archive. 22 September 1893. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  8. ^ Larry D. Allen (2005). Growing in the Grace of Giving. Xulon Press. ISBN 978-1-59781-644-1.

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