Dorothy Middleton, née Butler, was born and spent her early childhood in Lahore, then in India, where her father, Sir Montagu Butler, was a deputy commissioner in the waning years of the British Raj. She was sent to boarding school in England for her education but retained a strong affection for India. In 1938, she married Lawrence Middleton, a lawyer. In the mid-1950s, she was introduced by the publisher John Murray to some letters written by Isabella Bird Bishop, the 19th-century explorer, which sparked Dorothy's consuming interest in women travellers. The result was the book Victorian Lady Travellers (1965); a series of articles for the New Dictionary of National Biography; and a large number of public lectures. In 1959, together with A.A. Thomson, she published Lugard in Africa. She also edited a centennial reprint of Sir Francis Galton's The Art of Travel (1971). She became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society on the nomination of her brother, the politician R.A. Butler, and assistant editor of The Geographical Journal, a position she held for 20 years.