Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell

Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations

Book - 2007
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A marvelous tale of an adventurous life of great historical import She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born in 1868 into a world of privilege, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author (of "Persian Pictures," "The Desert and the Sown," and many other collections), poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer (she took off her skirt and climbed the Alps in her underclothes).
She traveled the globe several times, but her passion was the desert, where she traveled with only her guns and her servants. Her vast knowledge of the region made her indispensable to the Cairo Intelligence Office of the British government during World War I. She advised the Viceroy of India; then, as an army major, she traveled to the front lines in Mesopotamia. There, she supported the creation of an autonomous Arab nation for Iraq, promoting and manipulating the election of King Faisal to the throne and helping to draw the borders of the fledgling state. "Gertrude Bell," vividly told and impeccably researched by Georgina Howell, is a richly compelling portrait of a woman who transcended the restrictions of her class and times, and in so doing, created a remarkable and enduring legacy.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007, c2006.
ISBN: 9780374161620
Characteristics: xix, 481 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm.


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Jun 17, 2019


I love Gertrude Bell, she was so far beyond her time and place, what an amazing woman! Yes, I agree with previous comment, Pres. George W Bush should have read this before invading Iraq, she was much more knowledgeable than any of his advisors. She was an intrepid traveler, endured many privations and talked her way out of many tight spots but finally was given some recognition in her knowledge of the area. Wish I could find more Gertrude Bells to read about.

Jun 12, 2019

This is quite a companion to “Shalimar the Clown,” which I read shortly earlier. Bell was a fascinating woman; way ahead of her time. This book should be required reading for any US administration that has thoughts about Middle Eastern initiatives. Bell predicted the shameful treatment of the Kurds, no doubt having been aided by her awareness of Western indifference to the Armenian genocide. One could wish that this book had been written before W’s fateful exercise in Iraq, but he was perfectly happy ignoring numerous other knowledgeable parties before he decided to make things worse.
Although Bell’s work in the area was a century ago, her insights help the reader understand the people, because most of the background she describes continues to underlie current geopolitics.


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