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The Life and Travels of Isabella Bird (Hardback)

The Fearless Victorian Adventurer

British History Explorers & Adventurers Women of History Victorian Era 19th Century

By Jacki Hill-Murphy
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Trailblazing Women
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 25 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526763242
Published: 28th February 2021

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RRP £19.99

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Isabella Bird travelled to the wildest places on earth, but at home in Britain she lay in bed, hardly able to write: 'an invalid at home and a Samson abroad'.

In Japan she rode on a 'yezo savage' through foaming floods along unbeaten tracks, and was followed in the city by a crowd of a thousand, whose clogs clattered 'like a hailstorm' as they vied for a glimpse of the foreigner. She documented America before and after the Civil War and was deported from Korea with only the tweed suit she stood up in during a Japanese invasion. In China she was attacked with rocks and sticks and called a foreign dog, but she never gave up and went home. 'The prospect of the unknown has its charms.'

Transformed by distant lands, she crossed raging floods, rode elephants, cows and yak, clung to her horse's neck as it clambered down cliff paths, slept on simple mats on the bare ground, unable to change out of wet clothes or get out of the searing heat.

Her travels and the books she wrote about them show courage and tenacity, fuelled by a restless spirit and a love of nature. She is as unique now as she was then.

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About Jacki Hill-Murphy

Jacki Hill-Murphy MA, FRGS, is an explorer, writer and speaker who has travelled to some of the most inhospitable places on earth to re-create the journeys of daring women adventurers from the past. Isabella Bird is one of those great women and she saw, while walking in her footsteps across the Lower Himalayas, that the valiant Miss Bird had left her inhibitions at home and journeyed into the unknown seeking freedom through wilderness and curiosity.


Jacki is the author of Adventuresses and The Extraordinary Tale of Kate Marsden. She is the director of Under the Sky Events, giving adventure holidays to care experienced adults to increase their well-being.

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