Thomas William Bowlby

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Thomas William Bowlby
Bowlby China.jpg
Born7 January 1818
Died22 September 1860(1860-09-22) (aged 42)
Resting place Andingmen, Beijing, China (Memorial Paddington Old Cemetery)

Thomas William Bowlby (7 January 1818 – 22 September 1860) was a British correspondent for The Times in Germany and China in the 19th century.

<i>The Times</i> British newspaper, founded 1785

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.


Early life

Born in Gibraltar, he was the son of Thomas Bowlby, a Captain in the Royal Artillery, and Williamina Martha Arnold Balfour, daughter of Major-General William Balfour, a former Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick. Bowlby's parents moved while he was young to Sunderland, where his father became a timber merchant. Bowlby was educated by Dr Cowan, a Scottish school teacher living in Sunderland.

Gibraltar British Overseas Territory

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It has an area of 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi) and is bordered to the north by Spain. The landscape is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar at the foot of which is a densely populated town area, home to over 30,000 people, primarily Gibraltarians. It shares a maritime border with Morocco.

Royal Artillery artillery arm of the British Army

The Royal Regiment of Artillery, commonly referred to as the Royal Artillery (RA) and colloquially known as "The Gunners", is the artillery arm of the British Army. The Royal Regiment of Artillery comprises thirteen Regular Army regiments, King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and five Army Reserve regiments.

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New Brunswick is one of four Atlantic provinces on the east coast of Canada. According to the Constitution of Canada, New Brunswick is the only bilingual province. About two thirds of the population declare themselves anglophones and a third francophones. One third of the overall population describe themselves as bilingual. Atypically for Canada, only about half of the population lives in urban areas, mostly in Greater Moncton, Greater Saint John and the capital Fredericton.

After finishing his schooling he trained as a solicitor under his cousin Russell Bowlby of Sunderland and on completion of his training he moved to London where spent some years as a salaried clerk to a law firm in The Temple. In 1846 he became junior partner to the firm of Lawrence, Crowdy and Bowlby. However, Bowlby found the law uncongenial and felt drawn to a career in writing.


Although he remained as a member of the firm of Lawrence, Crowdy and Bowlby until 1854, Bowlby went to Berlin as a special correspondent for The Times in 1848 to report on the revolutions occurring in Europe at the time.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

In 1860, Bowlby was engaged to travel to China as the special correspondent of The Times to cover the Second Opium War, which was fought by the Chinese Qing Empire against the British and French. Lord Elgin and Baron Gros were his fellow passengers on the steamship SS Malabar, which sank in Galle harbour on 22 May 1860 after being beached in a severe storm. Bowlby's report of the shipwreck was considered one of his best pieces of work.

Second Opium War war in China from 1857–1860

The Second Opium War (第二次鴉片戰爭), the Second Anglo-Chinese War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, was a war pitting the United Kingdom and the French Empire against the Qing dynasty of China, lasting from 1856 to 1860.

Qing dynasty former empire in Eastern Asia, last imperial regime of China

The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing, was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled China proper from 1644 to 1912. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The Qing multi-cultural empire lasted for almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for modern China. It was the fifth largest empire in world history.

James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin British colonial administrator and diplomat

James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine, was a British colonial administrator and diplomat. He served as Governor of Jamaica (1842–1846), Governor General of the Province of Canada (1847–1854), and Viceroy of India (1862–1863). In 1857, he was appointed High Commissioner and Plenipotentiary in China and the Far East to assist in the process of opening up China and Japan to Western trade. In 1860, during the Second Opium War in China, in the retaliation of the torture and execution of almost twenty European and Indian prisoners, he ordered the destruction of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, an architectural wonder with immeasurable collections of artworks and historic antiques, inflicting invaluable loss of cultural heritage. Subsequently, he submitted the Qing dynasty to the unequal treaty of the Convention of Peking, adding Kowloon Peninsula to the British crown colony of Hong Kong.

Bowlby's reports from China were informative and popular with readers of The Times. After the capture of Tientsin (Tianjin) on 23 August 1860, Bowlby accompanied the British envoys Henry Loch and Harry Smith Parkes and their escorts to Tungchow (present-day Tongzhou District, Beijing) to arrange a peace treaty with the Qing Empire. However, when the negotiations broke down, the Qing general Sengge Rinchen arrested Bowlby and the delegation. Bowlby and the other captives were held at Tungchow and tortured, sometimes to death, over several days. Constricting ligatures were applied to their bodies; as they dried, they tightened. Those who cried out for water had dirt poured into their mouths. Bowlby died on 22 September. [1] In retaliation, the British and French burnt down the Qing Empire's Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in Beijing.

Tianjin Municipality in Peoples Republic of China

Tianjin, formerly romanized as Tientsin, is a coastal metropolis in northern China and one of the nine national central cities of the People's Republic of China (PRC), with a total population of 15,621,200 as of 2016 estimation. Its built-up area, made up of 12 central districts, was home to 12,491,300 inhabitants in 2016 and is also the world's 29th-largest agglomeration and 11th municipality-most populous city proper.

Henry Loch, 1st Baron Loch British colonial governor

Henry Brougham Loch, 1st Baron Loch, was a Scottish soldier and colonial administrator.

Harry Smith Parkes British diplomat

Sir Harry Smith Parkes was a British diplomat who served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary and Consul General of the United Kingdom to the Empire of Japan from 1865 to 1883 and the Chinese Qing Empire from 1883 to 1885, and Minister to Korea in 1884. Parkes Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong, is named after him.

Bowlby's mangled body was retrieved later and buried in the Russian cemetery outside the Anding Gate of Beijing on 17 October 1860. He was survived by his widow and five young children, among whom included the surgeon Sir Anthony Alfred Bowlby.

See also



  1. "The palace of shame that makes China angry". BBC NEWS. 2 February 2015.

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