Summer School 2021

Burchell’s return trek: the book he did not write


Dr Roger Ian Stewart, antiquarian

William Burchell is well known for his Travels in the Interior of South Africa. The account terminates abruptly in early August 1812 in the south-eastern Kalahari, at the end of his outward journey. It had taken one year. Only one of Burchell’s return journals has survived – covering only one of thirty-two months. The other journals have never been found.

Using little-known sources, including letters, specimens, manuscript documents at Kew and Oxford, as well as Burchell’s published and unpublished drawings and paintings, this course recreates Burchell’s three-year return journey. In addition to describing the return route, it highlights Burchell’s key discoveries and the adverse and fortuitous events he faced.


*This double lecture will be offered in the form of pre-recorded videos which participants may access at any time between 11 and 30 January on the Microsoft Teams platform. A Q&A channel will be available for interaction with the lecturer. Participants will be sent a link.

11–30 January 2021 (open registration)* 
COURSE FEES: R150     

Recommended reading

Buchanan, S.  2015. Burchell's travels: the life, art and journeys of William John Burchell, 1781–1863. Johannesburg: Penguin Random House. 

Stewart, R, and Warner, B. William John Burchell – a multi-skilled polymathSouth. African Journal of Science. 2012; 108: (11/12), pp. 45–53.