Prahl, Amanda. Gertrude Bell is one of the most influential and charismatic British figures of the early 20th century and was instrumental in establishing the modern states of Jordan and Iraq. Her family's fortune had begun to decline due to the onset of post-World War I worker strikes in Britain and economic depression in Europe. She re­turned to Bagh­dad and soon de­vel­oped pleurisy. https://www.thoughtco.com/gertrude-bell-4691614 (accessed January 23, 2021). ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, thoughtco.com/gertrude-bell-4691614. Eventually this plan came to fruition and the British bore witness to the defeat of one of the most powerful all-encompassing empires of the last few centuries, the Ottoman Empire. Her family's fortune had begun to decline due to the onset of post-WWI worker strikes in the UK and economic depression in Europe. She returned to Baghdad and soon developed pleurisy. Her close relationship with King Faisal also resulted in the founding of the Iraqi Archaeological Museum and an Iraq base of the British School of Archaeology. In conjunction with her archaeological documentation she consulted with two archaeologists, one of whom was T.E. Corbis Historical / Getty Images Political Career . She was Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), the privileged daughter of a well-established and massively influential iron-and-steel dynasty, and had she been made of less determined stuff her life might well have been one of steady and unchallenging leisure in the main with a side-line of progressive dabbling to cleanse the conscience and fill the hours between social visits. We had a terrible adventure: as we were about to start I found that my dog, Kurt, was missing. It is unknown whether the overdose was an inte… As she got older she also became obviously very clever a… Intrepid, determined and unafraid to challenge gender roles at the time, Bell embarked on sometimes perilous journeys which were physically demanding as well as potential dangerous. In her report, “Self Determination in Mesopotamia,” she laid out her ideas about how the new leadership should work, based on her experience in the region and with its people. It was unclear if the overdose was accidental or not. Among the Arabic communities she worked with, it was noted that “she was one of the few representatives of His Majesty's Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection.”, Amanda Prahl is a playwright, lyricist, freelance writer, and university instructor. She returned to Baghdad and soon developed pleurisy. Unlike many of her countrymen, she was regarded with considerable respect by the locals in Iraq, Jordan, and other countries. After meeting the administrator Sir Frank Swettenham on a visit to Singapore, she kept up a correspondence with him, despite their 18-year age gap. Bell’s family was wealthy and influential; her grandfather was ironmaster and politician Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell. They had a brief affair in 1904 after his return to England. Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born in June 1868 in England, in county of Durham. Along the way Bell was robbed of her money and, most importantly, her notebooks. She was the only British woman to fight on the front line in World War One…. Bell personally brought artifacts from her own collection and supervised excavations as well. By 1917 she was serving as Chief Political Officer to the British Resident in Baghdad, providing the colonial officials with her local knowledge and expertise. Discover. Her dedication was evident when in 1902 she almost lost her life after treacherous weather conditions left her hanging for 48 hours on a rope. Her fam­ily's for­tune had begun to de­cline due to the onset of post-World War I strikes by work­ers in Britain and eco­nomic de­pres­sion in Eu­rope. GERTRUDE BELL: the Queen of the desert She is remembered as the Queen of the desert, skilful archaeology, daring explorer, classy diplomat and writer but not everyone knows that she was the first woman graduated in Oxford with the highest record, also she was responsible for the Iraq foundation and the Middle East borders. She also spent considerable time in the Arabian Peninsula over the course of more than a decade. In 1925, she returned to England only to face a new set of problems. He was a wealthy mill owner whilst her grandfather was the industrialist, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, also a Liberal Member of Parliament in the time of Disraeli. Whilst she lost her mother at a very young age, her father, Sir Hugh Bell, 2nd Baronet became an important mentor throughout her life. It was here that she visited the ruins of Ukhaidir and travelled on to Babylon before returning to Carchemish. Kuseir [Qusayr, Al]. Mini Biography of Gertrude Bell Gertrude Bell was the first woman to graduate from Oxford University with a first class honours in history in 1888. Both men in her life would have an important influence on her as she was exposed to an internationalism and deep intellectual discussions from a young age. Born into a wealthy family in northern England, Gertrude was a free spirit from the beginning. By 1907 she produced one of many publications detailing her observations and experiences of the Middle East entitled, “Syria: the Desert and the Sown”, providing great detail and intrigue about some of the most important locations in the Middle East. Gertrude Bell (July 14, 1868 – July 12, 1926) was a British writer, politician, and archaeologist whose knowledge and travels in the Middle East made her a valuable and influential person in British administration of the region. They worked on excavations in modern-day Turkey, as well as the discovery of a field of ancient ruins in the north of Syria. She climbed Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, and even had one peak, the Gertrudspitze, named after her in 1901. On the morning of July 12, 1926, her maid discovered her dead, apparently of an overdose of sleeping pills. It was to be a fruitful and valuable excavation uncovering a complex of halls, courtyards and living quarters, all stationed in a defensive position along a crucial ancient trading route. Her credentials were essential for British colonial success, as a woman who could speak several local languages as well as having travelled frequently enough to become accustomed to the tribal differences, local allegiances, power plays and such, her information was invaluable. Now a frequent traveller and visitor of the Middle East she accompanied Sir William Ramsay on an excavation of Binbirkilise, a location within the Ottoman Empire known for its Byzantine church ruins. Such knowledge and expertise led to her incorporation into the Peace Conference of 1919 in Paris followed by the Conference of 1921 in Cairo attended by Winston Churchill. Gertrude Bell on the left, second row. So much so, that some of her publications were used in the British army as a kind of guide book for the new soldiers arriving in Basra. Gertrude Bell, United Kingdom (1868-1926) I lived in the Middle East for 12 years, and I greatly admire Gertrude Bell for traveling through the area’s formidable landscapes, embracing the culture, and being capable on so many levels. She taught herself Farsi, the Iranian language, and travelled to Iran in 1892, where her uncle was British ambassador. Th… In the following decade she was destined to travel the globe, visiting numerous locations whilst learning a variety of new skills, becoming adept in French, German, Arabic and Persian. Bell also participated in the drawing of borders in the Middle East; her reports from that time proved to be prescient, as she remarked on the likelihood that none of the possible borders and divisions would satisfy all factions and keep long-term peace. The two of them collaborated on a picture book of their discoveries. But fortunately for her, she found her passion for the desert and archaeology when she travelled to Jerusalem to study Arabic in 1899. And her father Hugh Bell continued the family business. (2020, August 29). Her mother, Mary Shield Bell, died giving birth to a son, Maurice, when Bell was only three years old. She also went to the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala. Unfortunately the brilliant life of Gertrude Bell came to a tragic conclusion in July 1926. Her family’s wealth, made mostly in industry, was in rapid decline, thanks to the combined effects of industrial worker strikes and economic depression across Europe. Two years later, she shifted her focus to Mesopotamia, visiting and studying the ruins of ancient cities. Such was the scope of her influence, particularly in modern-day Iraq, that she was known to be “one of the few representatives of His Majesty’s Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection”. Bell briefly returned to Britain in 1925, and found herself facing family problems and ill health. The Baghdad Musuem used to be one of the world’s most prestigious archaeological museums. When she recovered, she heard that her younger brother Hugo had died of typhoid. Her history and arts writing has been featured on Slate, HowlRound, and BroadwayWorld.​. She was born in July 1868 at Washington New Hall in County Durham, to a family that was purported to be the sixth richest family in the country. On another occasion one of her intrepid journeys took her along the Euphrates River, allowing Bell to discover further ruins in Syria, documenting her discoveries with notes and photographs as she went. There is much debate on her de… In 1899, she returned to the Middle East, visiting Palestine and Syria and stopping in the historic cities of Jerusalem and Damascus. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical. Gertrude Bell studied history at Oxford and embarked on a career as a writer, traveler and archaeologist. She became ill with pleurisy and, almost immediately after, her brother Hugh died of typhoid fever. Only two years later, she published her first book, Persian Pictures, describing these travels. At the Cairo Conference of 1921, she was critical in discussions on Iraqi leadership. King of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud, meets with British diplomat Sir Percy Cox and political advisor Gertrude Bell in Basra, Mesopotamia. Her lifeless body was discovered early on the morning of July 12, two days before her 58th birthday. The new leader, King Faisal, even named Gertrude Bell as the director of antiquities at the new National Museum of Iraq housed in Baghdad. Bell was the perfect candidate and soon worked her way up through the colonial ranks, breaking new ground as she had done at university, to become the only woman working for the British in the Middle East. Gertrude Bell became a crucial figure in the British Empire, a well-known traveller as well as writer, her in-depth knowledge of the Middle East proved to be her making. 5621230. Her father remarried and he and his new wife had three children, so Gertrude, who already had one brother, became the eldest of five. During World War One, along with a small group of similarly strong-minded British nurses, Gertrude Fenn became one of the first British women to care for Indian soldiers, not on the Western Front but in the searing desert heat of Mesopotamia…, With more and more men away fighting in the field, a manpower crisis loomed. When she recovered, she heard that her younger brother Hugo had died of typhoid. Gertrude Bell was invited to speak at a promotional event for the public library in Baghdad in November 1919. Her passion for archaeology took her to the region of Mesopotamia, now part of modern-day Iraq but also parts of Syria and Turkey in Western Asia. Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (1868-1926) was the intriguing and influential adventurer, scholar, writer, and diplomat who, like her contemporary T. E. “Lawrence of Arabia” did much to frame and shape the Middle East during and after the First World War. Shortly afterwards, Bell began to indulge her passion for travel as she accompanied her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles who was the British minister in Tehran, Persia. On 12 July 1926, Bell was discovered to have overdosed on sleeping pills. As well as being an explorer, Gertrude Bell was a mountain climber. Bell became the sole female political officer in the British forces and was sent to areas where her expertise was needed. Feb 25. As part of her post-war role, she would prove instrumental in shaping the modern-day country of Iraq, initiating borders as well as installing the future leader, King Faisal in 1922. From this grounding and supportive family base, Gertrude went on to receive an esteemed education at Queen’s College in London, followed by Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford to study History. Biography of Saddam Hussein, Dictator of Iraq, Middle East Gems of the Ancient and Modern World, Impacts of the Iraq War on the Middle East. Letters 25 February 1911. On another occasion one of her intrepid journeys took her along the Euphrates River, allowing Bell to discover further ruins in Syria, documenting her discoveries with notes and photographs as she went. On 12 July 1926, Bell was dis­cov­ered dead, of an ap­par­ent over­dose of sleep­ing pills. The British attempts to defeat the Ottoman Empire were significantly challenging, suffering numerous defeats, until that was, Lawrence launched his plan to recruit local Arabs in order to propel the Ottomans out of the region. Lawrence who at the time was an assistant to Reginald Campbell Thompson. When she re­cov­ered, she heard that her younger half brother Hugh had died of ty­phoid. In 1909 she left from Aleppo in Syria and traveled through the valley of the Euphrates River to Baghdad, visiting Babylonian sites along the way. Despite the limitations placed on female students, Bell graduated with first-class honors in just two years, becoming one of the first two Oxford women to achieve those honors with a modern history degree (the other was her classmate Alice Greenwood). Bell continued on as Oriental Secretary, which in practice meant liaising between the various different factions and interests. For Bell, this was only the beginning of over a decade of extensive travel. Gertrude Bell was born in Washington, England, in the northeastern county of Durham. Her involvement in the museum was destined to be her last project as she died from an overdose of sleeping pills in Baghdad in July 1926. Gertrude Bell was a pioneer in calling for national treasures to be kept in the country of origin. After British forces captured Baghdad in 1917, Bell was given the title of Oriental Secretary and ordered to assist in the restructuring of the area that had previously been the Ottoman Empire. When World War I broke out, Bell tried to obtain a posting in the Middle East but was denied; instead, she volunteered with the Red Cross. Such was her impact that King Faisal arranged a military funeral for her and she was laid to rest in the British Civil Cemetery in Baghdad, a fitting tribute to a woman who had dedicated and spent much of her life absorbed in the culture and heritage of the Middle East. The Life of Gertrude Bell, English Explorer in Iraq. She reached the top of many peaks in the Alps, including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. There is much de­bate on her de… In 1913, she became only the second foreign woman to journey to Ha’li, a notoriously unstable and dangerous city in Saudi Arabia. In the same year she turned her attention towards another one of her passions, archaeology, a study which she had grown interested in on a trip to the ancient city of Melos in Greece. After British forces captured Baghdad in 1917, Bell was given the title of Oriental Secretary and ordered to assist in the restructuring of the area that had previously been the Ottoman Empire. It was here that she first made history as the first female to graduate in Modern History with a first class honours degree, completed in only two years. What is this item? Her family's fortune had started to … She later learned Arabic taught herself archaeology. Nevertheless, her appetite for adventure did not quell her passion for fashion and luxury as she was said to travel with candlesticks, a Wedgwood dinner service and fashionable garments for the evening. She was very athletic, willful, adventurous, impetuous and brave, and so got into numerous scrapes as well as enjoying throwing her dog into a pond every day because ‘he does hate it so much’. During this time, she also witnessed the horrors of the Armenian genocide and wrote about it in her reports of the time. In 1907 Bell returned to Asia Minor with the British archeologist Sir William Ramsay to help excavate early Christian churches. She gained the moniker "al-Khatun" among the Arab population, signifying a “Lady of the Court” who observes to serve the state. The museum opened in 1923 owing much of its creation, collections and cataloguing to Bell. Prahl, Amanda. Gertrude Bell : biography 14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926 Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, archaeologist and spy who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her skill and contacts, built up through extensive travels […] Her pioneering spirit would remain undeterred and she would soon apply her undaunted attitude to new ambitions, this time in the Middle East. "The Life of Gertrude Bell, English Explorer in Iraq." From/To: Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell [8 March 1905] Wed. March 8. During her time serving the British Army in the Middle East she also encountered T.E Lawrence whilst working in the Arab Bureau in Cairo, gathering intelligence on the Ottoman Empire. Gertrude Bell was the youngest woman to graduate with a first-class honours degree in modern history from Oxford University. Her grandfather Lowthian Bell owned steel mills and held the title of Baronet. Gertrude Bell return to Britain in 1925, where she faced family problems and ill health. Perhaps that’s why she got a more influential seat at the table than Lawrence during the post-war partition of the Ottoman Empire. Dearest Mother. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Her passion and increasing knowledge of history, archaeology and the culture of the region became increasingly evident as her final Arabian trip in 1913 took her 1800 miles across the peninsula, encountering some dangerous and hostile conditions. She subsequently served as the President of the Library Committee from 1921 to 1924. ThoughtCo. We did not leave Hit [(Is)] yesterday till 1 o'clock, having a good deal of repacking to do. Prahl, Amanda. This position was that of a mediator between the British and Arabs, leading to her publication, “Self-Determination in Mesopotamia”. Her passion for archaeology took her to the region of Mesopotamia, now part of modern-day Iraq but also parts of Syria and Turkey in Western Asia. On the evening of July 11, 1926, Gertrude Bell took an overdose of sleeping pills and tranquilizers in her Baghdad home and fell asleep. 12 July, 2016 marks 90 years since the death of Gertrude Bell.. As grand reopenings go, it may prove to be a somewhat low-key affair. What Is the Difference Between Iran and Iraq? Bell quickly became a bonafide adventurer, going mountaineering in Switzerland and developing fluency in several languages, including French, German, Persian, and Arabic (plus proficiency in Italian and Turkish). Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, spy and archaeologist who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her knowledge and contacts, built up through extensive travels in Greater Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Arabia. Unfortunately, the British commissioner, Arnold Wilson, believed that the Arab government needed to be overseen by British officials who would hold the final power, and many of Bell’s recommendations were not implemented. Ramadi [Ramadi, Ar]. However, British intelligence was soon in need of her expertise in the region to get soldiers through the desert. Bell briefly returned to Britain in 1925, and found herself facing family problems and ill health. T his piece was published on 21 February, 2014. Gertrude Bell led some impressive expeditions across the desert landscapes of the Middle East, but rarely was she without her baggage animals or a cart to carry her dinner service, provisions and equipment, and a servant (or two) to prepare her meals. An archaeologist, writer and explorer, Gertrude Bell spent the early 1900s travelling alone across the Middle East. She suffered from recurrent bronchitis and began losing weight rapidly. In its new exhibition, The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell the Great North Museum: Hancock pays tribute to the North Eastern born, multi-talented traveller, archaeologist, political envoy and documentarian. In the course of her travels, she began to become acquainted with the people living in the region. On 12 July 1926, Bell was discovered dead, of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills. In the first of many tragedies and set-backs in her life, Gertrude’s mother died when she was 3. Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. In particular, her focus was the new creation of Iraq. Over the next few years, she remained a key part of the new Iraqi administration. Bell was well-educated, first attending Queen’s College, then Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University. Lawrence, sat on camels in front of a sphinx (a mythical creature with the head of a human and body of a lion) and pyramids whilst attending the Cairo Conference in 1921 (Cairo is a city in Egypt and a … Their affair remained unconsummated, and after his death in action in 1915, she had no other known romances. Gertrude Bell on the left, second row. Miss Bell's lines in the sand. The group was set up by Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill to discuss the future of Arab nations. Bell’s workload, combined with the desert heat and a slew of illnesses, took its toll on her health. When Bell briefly re­turned to Britain in 1925, she faced fam­ily prob­lems and ill health. Yesterday morning was tolerably fine - at least it did not rain - so we set off at 8 on our way to Homs [Hims]. Life for women was not easy at Oxford: they had to remain silent in lectures and could not interact freely with professors or male classmates. In 1907, Bell began working with archaeologist and scholar Sir William M. Ramsay. Starting from there, Bell gained remarkable influence in shaping British policy in the area. This is a black and white photograph which includes Winston Churchill (wearing sunglasses), Clementine Churchill, Gertrude Bell and T.E. Gertrude Bell seems to have supported independence for the Arab regions, but did not take as much of a hard stand on it as Lawrence. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/gertrude-bell-4691614. At a time when a woman’s role was still very much in the home, Bell proved what an accomplished woman could achieve. Whilst her personal life took a backseat, her passion for the Middle East would serve her in good stead when the ensuing global conflict of World War One necessitated intelligence from people who understood the region and its people. She taught Bell etiquette and decorum, but also encouraged her intellectual curiosity and social responsibility. Vital jobs were filled by women, many going out to work for the first time in their lives…, Flora Sandes was an extraordinary woman. When Gertrude Bell travelled to Damascus, she was equipped with items that she felt were necessary for her journey: fur coats for the chilly winter weather and tweed jackets, but also clothes for more mundane events, such as fashionable French gowns and skirts, plumed hats, parasols, fringed shawls, frilly blouses and riding clothes. She advocated for Faisal bin Hussein to be named the first King of Iraq, and when he was installed in the post, she advised him on a wide variety of political matters and supervised the selection of his cabinet and other positions. Her knowledge and decisions were trusted by some of the most important British government officials, helping to define a region as well as break new ground as a woman exerting power in the same sphere as her male counterparts. "The Life of Gertrude Bell, English Explorer in Iraq." Such a plan was supported and assisted by none other than Gertrude Bell. Dearest Mother. During her expeditions, she forged close relationships with locals and tribe leaders. Her dedication to the region continued as she was keen to preserve Iraq’s rich cultural heritage and for the rest of her time dedicated herself to such a task. Her love for archaeology led her to form the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, now known as the Iraqi Museum, by bringing in extensive collections of artifacts from the Babylonian empire. Fine Dining in the Desert with Gertrude Bell. She developed a passion for archaeology and continued her interest in modern history and peoples. Despite this love of comfort, her awareness of threats would lead her to conceal guns underneath her dress just in case. When did she die? After completing her degree, in 1892, Bell began her travels, first heading to Persia to visit her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, who was a minister at the embassy there. Her tours of the Middle East over the course of the next twelve years, would inspire and educate Bell who would apply her knowledge during the outbreak of World War One. It took awhile for Bell to discover her true calling in life. Gertrude was only three years old when her mother died. With much of her time taken up by travelling, educational pursuits and pastimes she never married or had any children, although she did engage in an affair with a couple of individuals from the British colonial administration, one of whom sadly lost his life during World War One. Gertrude Bell links through the work she carried out in Baghdad Curriculum areas covered: History, English, Maths, Geography, Computing, Design and Technology What we did to find out about our topic and create our exhibition: We visited Kirkleatham Museum because they had an exhibition about Gertrude Bell. The delegates of the Mespot Commission at the Cairo Conference. Fluent in Persian and Arabic, Bell worked for … More significantly, she exchanged passionate love letters from 1913 until 1915 with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie, an army officer who was already married. In the tributes following her death, she was praised for both her achievements and her personality by her British colleagues, and she was posthumously awarded the Order of the British Empire. A playwright and children’s author, her stepmother was a major influence on Bell's early life. Fresh inspiration for seeing Petra has come from Gertrude Bell (1868–1926), the intrepid English explorer, archaeologist, photographer, writer, and political officer whose story is told in Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum’s richly atmospheric documentary Letters From Baghdad.Bell is most famous now as a nation builder—one of the creators of Iraq. Copyright © Historic UK Ltd. Company Registered in England No. She was an archaeologist, a linguist and the greatest woman mountaineer of her age. Gertrude Bell with Sir Winston Churchill, T. E. Lawrence and other delegates at the Cairo Conference 1921. Moreover, her stepmother, Florence Bell was said to have had a strong influence on Gertrude’s ideas of social responsibility, something that would feature later in her dealings in modern-day Iraq. Aside from her linguistic expertise, she also applied her passion for mountaineering, spending several summers scaling the Alps. It was this journey which became the focus of her book, “Persian Pictures”, containing a documented account of her travels. Her father was Sir Hugh Bell, a baronet who was a sheriff and a justice of the peace before joining the family manufacturing firm, Bell Brothers, and gaining a reputation for being a progressive and caring boss. 10 Most Indispensable Books on the Middle East, M.F.A, Dramatic Writing, Arizona State University, B.A., English Literature, Arizona State University, B.A., Political Science, Arizona State University. Sir Hugh remarried four years later to Florence Olliffe. Only the beginning of over a decade Explorer in Iraq. was to! 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