Gertrude Bell

Last updated

Gertrude Bell
BellK 218 Gertrude Bell in Iraq in 1909 age 41.jpg
Gertrude Bell in 1909, visiting archaeological excavations in Babylon
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell

(1868-07-14)14 July 1868
Washington New Hall, County Durham, England
Died12 July 1926(1926-07-12) (aged 57)
Nationality British
Education Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
OccupationTraveller, political officer
EraVictorian, Edwardian – 1900s
Known forWriter, traveller, political officer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer in Greater Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Arabia
Parent(s) Sir Hugh Bell
Mary Bell (née Shield) [lower-alpha 1] [1]

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist [2] 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. [3] Along with T. E. Lawrence, Bell helped support the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan as well as in Iraq.


She played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq, using her unique perspective from her travels and relations with tribal leaders throughout the Middle East. During her lifetime she was highly esteemed and trusted by British officials and exerted an immense amount of power. She has been described as "one of the few representatives of His Majesty's Government remembered by the Arabs with anything resembling affection". [4]

Early life

Bell was born on 14 July 1868 in Washington New Hall – now known as Dame Margaret Hall – in Washington, County Durham, England to a family whose wealth ensured her education and enabled her travels. [5] Her personality was characterised by energy, intellect, and a thirst for adventure that shaped her path in life. Her grandfather was the ironmaster Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, an industrialist and a Liberal Member of Parliament, in Benjamin Disraeli's second term. His role in British policy-making exposed Gertrude at a young age to international matters and most likely encouraged her curiosity for the world, and her later involvement in international politics. [6]

Bell's mother, Mary Shield Bell, died in 1871 [7] while giving birth to a son, Maurice (later the 3rd Baronet). Gertrude Bell was just three at the time, and the death led to a lifelong close relationship with her father, Sir Hugh Bell, 2nd Baronet, a progressive capitalist and mill owner who made sure his workers were well paid and cared for. [8] :33–34 Throughout her life, Gertrude consulted on political matters with her father, who had also served for many years in various governmental positions.

Some biographies suggest the loss of her mother caused underlying childhood trauma, revealed through periods of depression and risky behaviour. But when Gertrude was seven years old, her father remarried, providing her a stepmother, Florence Bell (née Olliffe), and eventually, three half-siblings. Florence Bell was a playwright and author of children's stories, as well as the author of a study of Bell factory workers. She instilled concepts of duty and decorum in Gertrude and contributed to her intellectual development. Florence Bell's activities with the wives of Bolckow Vaughan ironworkers in Eston, near Middlesbrough, may have helped influence her step-daughter's later stance promoting education of Iraqi women. [9]

Gertrude Bell received her early education from Queen's College in London and then later at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, [10] at the age of 17. History was one of the few subjects women were allowed to study, due to the many restrictions imposed on them at the time. She specialised in modern history, and it was said that she was the first woman to graduate in Modern History at Oxford with a first class honours degree, a feat she achieved in only two years. [11] :41 Actually, eleven people graduated that year. Nine were recorded because they were men but the other two were Bell and Alice Greenwood. [12]

Bell never married or had children. She befriended British colonial administrator Sir Frank Swettenham on a visit to Singapore with her brother Hugo in 1903 and maintained a correspondence with him until 1909. [13] She had a "brief but passionate affair" with Swettenham following his retirement to England in 1904. [14] She also had an unconsummated affair with Maj. Charles Doughty-Wylie, a married man, with whom she exchanged love letters from 1913 to 1915. [15] :14–17 After his death in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign, Bell launched herself into her work.

Travels and writings

Bell's uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, was British minister (similar to ambassador) at Tehran, Persia. In May 1892, after leaving Oxford, Bell travelled to Persia to visit him. She described this journey in her book, Persian Pictures, which was published in 1894. She spent much of the next decade travelling around the world, mountaineering in Switzerland, and developing a passion for archaeology and languages. She had become fluent in Arabic, Persian, French and German, and also spoke Italian and Ottoman languages.. In 1899, Bell again went to the Middle East. She visited Palestine and Syria that year and in 1900, on a trip from Jerusalem to Damascus, she became acquainted with the Druze living in Jabal al-Druze. [16] She travelled across Arabia six times during the next 12 years. [16]

Between 1899 and 1904, she conquered a number of mountains, including the La Meije and Mont Blanc, as she recorded 10 new paths or first ascents in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. One Alpine peak in the Bernese Oberland, the 2,632 m (8,635 ft) Gertrudspitze, was named after her after she and her guides Ulrich and Heinrich Fuhrer first traversed it in 1901. However, she failed in an attempt of the Finsteraarhorn in August 1902, when inclement weather including snow, hail and lightning forced her to spend "forty eight hours on the rope" with her guides, clinging to the rock face in terrifying conditions that nearly cost her her life. [17]

Bell's workers at the Binbirkilise excavations in 1907 BinbirkiliseBell.jpg
Bell's workers at the Binbirkilise excavations in 1907

She published her observations of the Middle East in the book Syria: The Desert and the Sown (1907, William Heinemann Ltd, London). In this book she described, photographed and detailed her trip to Greater Syria's towns and cities such as Damascus, Jerusalem, Beirut, Antioch and Alexandretta. Bell's vivid descriptions revealed the Arabian deserts to the western world. In March 1907, Bell journeyed to the Ottoman Empire and began to work with Sir William M. Ramsay, an archaeologist and New Testament scholar. Their excavations in Binbirkilise were chronicled in A Thousand and One Churches. [18]

In 1907, they discovered a field of ruins in northern Syria on the east bank of the upper course of the Euphrates, along a steep slope of the former river valley. From the ruins, they created a plan and described the ramparts: "Munbayah, where my tents were pitched – the Arabic name means only a high-altitude course – was probably the Bersiba in Ptolemy's list of city names. It consists of a double rampart, situated on the river bank." [19]

In January 1909, Bell left for Mesopotamia. She visited the Hittite city of Carchemish, mapped and described the ruin of Ukhaidir, and continued to Babylon and Najaf. Back in Carchemish, she consulted with the two archaeologists on site. One of them was T. E. Lawrence, assistant to Reginald Campbell Thompson. In 1910, Bell visited the Munich exhibition Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art. In a letter to her stepmother, she recounts how she had the research room to herself and spoke to some Syrians from Damascus who were part of the ethnographic section of the exhibition. [20]

In 1913, she completed her last and most arduous Arabian journey, travelling about 1800 miles from Damascus to the politically volatile Ha'il, back up across the Arabian peninsula to Baghdad and from there back to Damascus. She was only the second foreign woman after Lady Anne Blunt to visit Ha'il and, arriving during a period of particular instability, was held in the city for eleven days. [11] :218–219

In 1927, a year after Bell's death, her stepmother Florence Bell published two volumes of Gertrude Bell's collected correspondence written during the 20 years preceding World War I. [1]

War and political career

At the outbreak of World War I, Bell's request for a Middle East posting was initially denied. She instead volunteered with the Red Cross in France.

Later, she was asked by British Intelligence to get soldiers through the deserts, and from the World War I period until her death she was the only woman holding political power and influence in shaping British imperial policy in the Middle East. She often acquired a team of locals which she directed and led on her expeditions. Throughout her travels Bell established close relations with tribe members across the Middle East. Additionally, being a woman gave her exclusive access to the chambers of wives of tribe leaders, giving her access to other perspectives and functions.

Cairo and Basra

St John Philby Harry St. John Bridger Philby.jpg
St John Philby

In November 1915 she was summoned to Cairo to the nascent Arab Bureau, headed by General Gilbert Clayton. She also again met T. E. Lawrence. [8] :160–161

Both Bell and Lawrence had attended Oxford and earned a First Class Honours in Modern History, both spoke fluent Arabic and both had travelled extensively in the Arabian desert and established ties with the local tribes before World War I. Renowned archaeologist and historian Lt. Cmdr. David Hogarth recognised the value of Lawrence and Bell's expertise and upon his recommendation first Lawrence, then Bell, were assigned to Army Intelligence Headquarters in Cairo in 1915 for war service.

Arriving in February 1916, she did not, at first, receive an official position, but instead helped Hogarth set about organising and processing her own, Lawrence's and Capt. W. H. I. Shakespear's data about the location and disposition of Arab tribes. They could then be encouraged to join the British against the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence and the British used the information in forming alliances with the Arabs.

On 3 March 1916, Gen. Clayton abruptly sent Bell to Basra, which British forces had captured in November 1914, to advise Chief Political Officer Percy Cox regarding an area she knew better than any other Westerner. Cox found her an office in his headquarters, where she was employed for the two days per week she was not at Military GHQ Basra. [21] She drew maps to help the British army reach Baghdad safely. She became the only female political officer in the British forces and received the title of "Liaison Officer, Correspondent to Cairo" (i.e. to the Arab Bureau where she had been assigned). She was St. John Philby's field controller, and taught him the finer arts of behind-the-scenes political manoeuvering.

I went out last week along the light railway 25 miles into the desert it's the Nasariyeh Railway - was so curious to travel 50 minutes by rail and find...General Maude, our new army commander, has just arrived. I've made his acquaintance..." [22]

Armenian genocide

While in the Middle East, Gertrude Bell was a witness to the Armenian Genocide. Contrasting them with previous massacres, she wrote that the massacres of preceding years "were not comparable to the massacres carried out in 1915 and the succeeding years." [23] Bell also reported that in Damascus, "Ottomans sold Armenian women openly in the public market." [24] In an intelligence report, Bell wrote:

The battalion left Aleppo on 3 February and reached Ras al-Ain in twelve hours....some 12,000 Armenians were concentrated under the guardianship of some hundred Kurds...These Kurds were called gendarmes, but in reality mere butchers; bands of them were publicly ordered to take parties of Armenians, of both sexes, to various destinations, but had secret instructions to destroy the males, children and old women...One of these gendarmes confessed to killing 100 Armenian men himself...the empty desert cisterns and caves were also filled with corpses...No man can ever think of a woman's body except as a matter of horror, instead of attraction, after Ras al-Ain." [25]

Creation of Iraq

After British troops took Baghdad on 10 March 1917, Bell was summoned by Cox to Baghdad [8] :274–276 and given the title of "Oriental Secretary." As the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire was finalised by the end of the war in late January 1919, Bell was assigned to conduct an analysis of the situation in Mesopotamia. Due to her familiarity and relations with the tribes in the area she had strong ideas about the leadership needed in Iraq. She spent the next ten months writing what was later considered a masterly official report, "Self Determination in Mesopotamia". [26] The British Commissioner in Mesopotamia, Arnold Wilson, had different ideas of how Iraq should be run, preferring an Arab government to be under the influence of British officials who would retain real control, as he felt, from experience, that Mesopotamian populations were not yet ready to govern and administer the country efficiently and peacefully.

On 11 October 1920, Percy Cox returned to Baghdad and asked her to continue as Oriental Secretary, acting as liaison with the forthcoming Arab government. Gertrude Bell essentially played the role of mediator between the Arab government and British officials. Bell often had to mediate between the various groups of Iraq including a majority population of Shias in the southern region, Sunnis in central Iraq, and the Kurds, mostly in the northern region, who wished to be autonomous. Keeping these groups united was essential for political balance in Iraq and for British imperial interests. Iraq not only contained valuable resources in oil but would act as a buffer zone, with the help of Kurds in the north as a standing army in the region to protect against Turkey, Persia (Iran), and Syria. British officials in London, especially Churchill, were highly concerned about cutting heavy costs in the colonies, including the cost of quashing tribal infighting. Another important project for both the British and new Iraqi rulers was creating a new identity for these people so that they would identify themselves as one nation. [27]

British officials quickly realised that their strategies in governing were adding to costs. Iraq would be cheaper as a self-governing state. The Cairo Conference of 1921 was held to determine the political and geographic structure of what later became Iraq and the modern Middle East. [8] :365–369 Significant input was given by Gertrude Bell in these discussions thus she was an essential part of its creation. At the Cairo Conference Bell and Lawrence highly recommended Faisal bin Hussein, (the son of Hussein, Sherif of Mecca), former commander of the Arab forces that helped the British during the war and entered Damascus at the culmination of the Arab Revolt. He had been recently deposed by France as King of Syria, and British officials at the Cairo Conference decided to make him the first King of Iraq. They believed that due to his lineage as a Hashemite and his diplomatic skills he would be respected and have the ability to unite the various groups in the country. Shias would respect him because of his lineage from Muhammad. Sunnis, including Kurds, would follow him because he was Sunni from a respected family. Keeping all the groups under control in Iraq was essential to balance the political and economic interests of the British Empire.

Upon Faisal's arrival in 1921, Bell advised him on local questions, including matters involving tribal geography and local business. She also supervised the selection of appointees for cabinet and other leadership posts in the new government. Referred to by Arabs as "al-Khatun" (a Lady of the Court who keeps an open eye and ear for the benefit of the State), she was a confidante of King Faisal of Iraq and helped ease his passage into the role, amongst Iraq's other tribal leaders at the start of his reign. He helped her to found Baghdad's Iraqi Archaeological Museum from her own modest artefact collection and to establish The British School of Archaeology, Iraq, for the endowment of excavation projects from proceeds in her will. The stress of authoring a prodigious output of books, correspondence, intelligence reports, reference works, and white papers; of recurring bronchitis attacks brought on by years of heavy smoking in the company of English and Arab cohorts; of bouts with malaria; and finally, of coping with Baghdad's summer heat all took a toll on her health. Somewhat frail to start with, she became emaciated.

Historians have pointed out that the present troubles in Iraq to be derived from the political boundaries Bell conceived to create its borders. Her reports, however, indicate that problems were foreseen, and both Bell and her British colleagues believed that there were just not many (if any) permanent solutions for calming the divisive forces at work in that part of the world. However, her lobbying for the Sunni minority to control the Shia majority created a template for the Sunni dictatorships that followed. Her colleagues also insisted that the Kurds be deprived of a homeland, and that a portion of them should be incorporated into Iraq, a division that Bell did not oppose. The division of the Kurds between Iraq, Syria and Turkey led to their oppression in all three countries, and Bell endorsed the use of force against the Kurds. "Mesopotamia is not a civilised state," Bell wrote to her father on 18 December 1920. [8] :413–419 [28] [29]

Throughout the early 1920s Bell was an integral part of the administration of Iraq. The new Hashemite monarchy used the Sharifian flag, which consisted of a black stripe representing the Abbasid caliphate, white stripe representing the Umayyad caliphate, and a green stripe for Fatimid Dynasty, and lastly a red triangle to set across the three bands symbolising Islam. Bell felt it essential to customise it for Iraq by adding a gold star to the design. [15] :149 Faisal was crowned king of Iraq on 23 August 1921, but he was not completely welcomed. Using Shi'ite history to gain support for Faisal, during the holy month of Muharram, Bell compared Faisal's arrival in Baghdad to Husayn, grandson of Muhammad. However, there was little enthusiasm for Faisal when he landed at the Shia port of Basra. [30]

She did not find working with the new king to be easy: "You may rely upon one thing — I'll never engage in creating kings again; it's too great a strain." Faisal attempted to rid himself of the control of British advisors, including Bell, with only limited success. [31] [32]

1921 conference

Bell, Cox and Lawrence were among a select group of "Orientalists" convened by Winston Churchill to attend a 1921 Conference in Cairo to determine the boundaries of the British mandate (e.g., "the British Partitions") and nascent states such as Iraq. [8] :365–369 Gertrude is supposed to have described Lawrence as being able "to ignite fires in cold rooms". [33]

Throughout the conference, she, Cox and Lawrence worked tirelessly to promote the establishment of the countries of Transjordan and Iraq to be presided over by the Kings Abdullah and Faisal, sons of the instigator of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire (ca. 1915–1916), Hussein bin Ali, Sharif and Emir of Mecca. [8] :365–369 Until her death in Baghdad, she served in the Iraq British High Commission advisory group there.

Bell opposed the Zionist movement, on the grounds that it would be unfair to impose Jewish rule on Arab inhabitants of Palestine. She wrote that she regarded the Balfour Declaration with "the deepest mistrust" and that "It's like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can`t stretch out your hand to prevent them". [34] [35]

Mark Sykes, the British diplomat responsible for the Sykes–Picot Agreement, was not fond of her. [36]

National Library of Iraq

In November 1919, Bell was an invited speaker at a meeting for the promotion of a public library in Baghdad, and subsequently served on its Library Committee, as President from 1921 to 1924. The Baghdad Peace Library (Maktabat al-Salam) was a private, subscription library, but in c.1924 was taken over by the Ministry of Education and became known as the Baghdad Public Library (or sometimes as the General Library). In 1961, this became the National Library of Iraq.

Baghdad Archaeological Museum

Gertrude Bell's first love had always been archaeology, thus she began forming what became the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, later renamed the Iraqi Museum. Her goal was to preserve Iraqi culture and history which included the important relics of Mesopotamian civilizations, and keep them in their country of origin. She also supervised excavations and examined finds and artifacts. She brought in extensive collections, such as from the Babylonian Empire. [27] The museum was officially opened in June 1926, shortly before Bell's death. After her death, at the Emir's suggestion, the right wing of the Museum was named as a memorial to her.

Final years

When Bell briefly returned to Britain in 1925, she faced family problems and ill health. 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. She returned to Baghdad and soon developed pleurisy. When she recovered, she heard that her younger half brother Hugh had died of typhoid.

On 12 July 1926, Bell was discovered dead, of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills. There is much debate on her death, but it is unknown whether the overdose was an intentional suicide or accidental since she had asked her maid to wake her. [27] In her final years she became acquainted with Kinahan Cornwallis who later wrote an introduction to the posthumously published book The Arab War, Confidential Information for General Headquarters from Gertrude Bell, Being Despatches Reprinted from the Secret "Arab Bulletin".

She was buried at the British cemetery in Baghdad's Bab al-Sharji district. [37] Her funeral was a major event, attended by large numbers of people including her colleagues, British officials and the King of Iraq. It was said King Faisal watched the procession from his private balcony as they carried her coffin to the cemetery. [15] :235

Legacy and tributes


An obituary written by her peer D. G. Hogarth expressed the respect British officials held for her. Hogarth honoured her by saying,

No woman in recent time has combined her qualities – her taste for arduous and dangerous adventure with her scientific interest and knowledge, her competence in archaeology and art, her distinguished literary gift, her sympathy for all sorts and condition of men, her political insight and appreciation of human values, her masculine vigour, hard common sense and practical efficiency – all tempered by feminine charm and a most romantic spirit. [38]


Gertrude Bell is remembered in Iraq in the 21st century. The British diplomat, travel writer and Member of Parliament Rory Stewart wrote:

When I served as a British official in southern Iraq in 2003, I often heard Iraqis compare my female colleagues to "Gertrude Bell." It was generally casual flattery, and yet the example of Bell and her colleagues was unsettling. More than ten biographies have portrayed her as the ideal Arabist, political analyst, and administrator.

Rory Stewart [39]

Stewart notes that Bell was "both more lively and more honest" than political statements in his time. [39] He quotes six examples of her writing, the shortest of which is "No one knows exactly what they do want, least of all themselves, except that they don’t want us." [39] He quotes Bell's colleague, T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), as saying that she was "not a good judge of men or situations", [40] and observes that "If there was no ideal solution, however, there were still clear mistakes. Bell should never have acquiesced in the inclusion of the Kurdish-dominated province of Mosul in Iraq." [40] However, Stewart praises her 1920 White Paper, comparing it to General Petraeus's report to the US Congress. [40]


Posthumous tributes

Gertrude Bell's work was specially mentioned in the British Parliament, and she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

A stained-glass window dedicated to her memory, made by Douglas Strachan, was erected in St Lawrence's Church, East Rounton, North Yorkshire. It depicts Magdalen College, Oxford, and Khadimain, Baghdad. [44] The inscription reads:

This window is in remembrance of Gertrude Versed in the learning of the east and of the west Servant of the state Scholar Poet Historian Antiquary Gardener Mountaineer Explorer Lover of nature of flowers and of animals Incomparable friend sister daughter. [45]

In 2019, entomologists studying wild bees in Saudi Arabia described a new genus which they named to honour Bell, as genus Belliturgula, known from the species Belliturgula najdica from central Saudi Arabia. [46]


In 2016, a campaign was launched to transform Bell's family estate, Red Barns, into a memorial and museum. The family were patrons of the Arts and Crafts movement in England, and the home, located in Redcar, features wallpaper by William Morris. Although the building is Grade II* listed, it had not been maintained in recent years. Turning the building into a memorial to Bell is partially the result of a 2015 exhibition about her at the Great North Museum in Newcastle. The exhibition moved to the Kirkleatham Museum in Redcar after its run in Newcastle. [47]

The Gertrude Bell archive, held by Newcastle University, was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme in 2017. [48] [49]


  1. Daughter of John Shield of Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Related Research Articles

Iraq is the name of the state that currently partially encompasses the territory of the civilization of ancient Mesopotamia. This civilization came into being between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. These rivers flow into the Persian Gulf, through the State of Iraq. The Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq, also known as Mandatory Iraq in its early phase, was established by the Anglo-Iraqi treaty of 1922 resulting from the 1920 Iraqi revolt against British rule. It is centered in Lower Mesopotamia but also includes part of Upper Mesopotamia and of the Syrian Desert and the Arabian Desert. The history of this area has witnessed some of the world's earliest writing, literature, sciences, mathematics, laws and philosophies; hence its common epithet, the Cradle of Civilization.

T. E. Lawrence British archaeologist, military officer, and diplomat

Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence,, was a British archaeologist, army officer, diplomat, and writer. He was renowned for his role in the Arab Revolt and the Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia, a title used for the 1962 film based on his wartime activities.

Faisal I of Iraq 20th-century King of Syria and Iraq

Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi was King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria or Greater Syria in 1920, and was King of Iraq from 23 August 1921 to 1933. He was the third son of Hussein bin Ali, the Grand Sharif of Mecca, who had proclaimed himself King of the Arab lands in October 1916.

Sykes–Picot Agreement Secret 1916 agreement between the United Kingdom and France

The Sykes–Picot Agreement was a 1916 secret treaty between the United Kingdom and France, with assent from the Russian Empire and Italy, to define their mutually agreed spheres of influence and control in an eventual partition of the Ottoman Empire. The agreement was based on the premise that the Triple Entente would succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I and formed part of a series of secret agreements contemplating its partition. The primary negotiations leading to the agreement occurred between 23 November 1915 and 3 January 1916, on which date the British and French diplomats, Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, initialled an agreed memorandum. The agreement was ratified by their respective governments on 9 and 16 May 1916.

The McMahon–Hussein Correspondence is a series of letters that were exchanged during World War I in which the United Kingdom government agreed to recognize Arab independence after the war in exchange for the Sharif of Mecca launching the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The correspondence had a significant impact on Middle Eastern history during and after the war, and a dispute over Palestine continued thereafter.

Arab Revolt Uprising in 1916 against the ruling Ottoman Turks during World War I

The Arab Revolt or the Great Arab Revolt was a military uprising of Arab forces against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. On the basis of the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, an agreement between the British government and Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, the revolt was officially initiated at Mecca on June 10, 1916. The aim of the revolt was to create a single unified and independent Arab state stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen, which the British had promised to recognize.

Percy Cox British Indian Army general

Major-General Sir Percy Zachariah Cox was a British Indian Army officer and Colonial Office administrator in the Middle East. He was one of the major figures in the creation of the current Middle East.

Upper Mesopotamia Northern part of the region between Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now part of Iraq, Syria and Turkey

Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, in the northern Middle East. Since the early Muslim conquests of the mid-7th century, the region has been known by the traditional Arabic name of al-Jazira and the Syriac variant Gāzartā or Gozarto (ܓܙܪܬܐ). The Euphrates and Tigris rivers transform Mesopotamia into almost an island, as they are joined together at the Shatt al-Arab in the Basra Governorate of Iraq, and their sources in eastern Turkey are in close proximity.

Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson was the British civil commissioner in Baghdad in 1918–20. Wilson served under Percy Cox, the colonial administrator of Mesopotamia during and after First World War, including the Iraqi revolt against the British in 1920. Wilson was the third Member of Parliament to die in action in Second World War. He was killed while serving as an aircrew member at the advanced age of 55.

The Iraqi people, sometimes colloquially, Mesopotamians, or the people of Mesopotamia are people identified with the country of Iraq.

<i>A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia</i> 1990 television film directed by Christopher Menaul

A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia is a British television film of 1990 depicting the experiences of T. E. Lawrence and Emir Faisal of the Hejaz at the Paris Peace Conference after the end of the First World War. One of the conference's many concerns was determining the fates of territories formerly under the rule of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The film stars Ralph Fiennes as T. E. Lawrence, Alexander Siddig as Faisal, Denis Quilley as Lord Curzon, and Nicholas Jones as Lord Dyson. It was made by Anglia Films and Enigma Television, and was first screened in April 1990 on the ITV network before being aired on PBS in May 1992.

East Rounton Village and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

East Rounton is a village and civil parish in the Hambleton district of North Yorkshire, England. It is about 1 mile west of the A19 and 8 miles north-east of Northallerton. It is on the River Wiske and West Rounton is nearby. The population taken at the 2011 Census was less than 100. Details are included in the civil parish of West Rounton.

Sassoon Eskell Iraqi politician

Sir Sassoon Eskell, KBE was an Iraqi statesman and financier. Also known as Sassoon Effendi, he was regarded in Iraq as the Father of Parliament. Sir Sassoon was the first Minister of Finance in the Kingdom and a permanent Member of Parliament until his death. Along with Gertrude Bell and T. E. Lawrence, he was instrumental in the creation and the establishment of the Kingdom of Iraq post Ottoman rule, and he founded the nascent Iraqi government’s laws and financial structure.

Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1922 treaty giving Britain control of Iraqs military and foreign affairs

The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of October 1922 was an agreement signed by the government of Great Britain and the government of Iraq. The treaty was designed to allow for local self-government while giving the British control of foreign and military affairs. It was intended to conclude an agreement made at the Cairo Conference of 1921 to establish a Hashemite Kingdom in Iraq.

Ronald Storrs British official

Sir Ronald Henry Amherst Storrs was an official in the British Foreign and Colonial Office. He served as Oriental Secretary in Cairo, Military Governor of Jerusalem, Governor of Cyprus, and Governor of Northern Rhodesia.

Sir Kinahan Cornwallis was a British administrator and diplomat best known for being an advisor to King Faisal and for being the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Iraq during the Anglo-Iraqi War.

Iraqi nationalism

Iraqi nationalism is a form of nationalism which asserts the belief that Iraqis are a nation and promotes the cultural unity of Iraqis, of all ethnoreligious groups; Mesopotamian Arabs, Chaldo-Assyrians, Kurds, Yazidis, Mandeans, Shabaks, Turkmen, Kawliya, Dom, Yarsans, and others. Iraqi nationalism involves the recognition of an Iraqi identity stemming from ancient Mesopotamia including its civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia and Assyria. Iraqi nationalism influenced Iraq's movement for independence from Ottoman and British occupation. Iraqi nationalism was an important factor in the 1920 Revolution against British occupation, and the 1958 Revolution against the British-installed Hashemite monarchy.

Lady Adela tribal chief

Lady Adela Jaff or Adela Khanem, called the Princess of the Brave by the British, an Kurdish ruler and of the Jaff tribe; one of the first famous woman leaders in the history of Kurdistan. Jaff tribe, the biggest tribe in Kurdistan, native to the Zagros area, which is divided between Iran and Iraq. Adela Khanem was of the famous aristocratic Sahibqeran family, who intermarried with the tribal chiefs of Jaff. Lady Adela exerted great influence in the affairs of Jaff tribe in the Sharazor plain. She was born in 1847 the ruling family in Sanandaj, second largest city of Iranian Kurdistan. She married Kurdish King Osman Pasha Jaff, whose headquarters was in Halabja. Her husband Osman Pasha Jaff, was a Pasha and she ruled in his place at her husband’s absence. Her father was the grand visir of Persia and her uncles were grand visirs of the Ottoman Empire and Saudi Arabia. Adela Jaff was one of the few rulers that were women in the region. The British invaded German Ottoman Iraq during World War I and conquered it with the treaty of Mudros in 1917. They wished to give the Kurds Autonomy by setting up the Mosul commission in 1918. They gave Mahmud Barzanji power, but he revolted and launched a campaign to murder all British political officers assigned to each tribe in 1919. She was even revered by the British because of her acts of mercy towards British captives, who were a part of the Mesopotamian invasion during World War I. Adela Khanum Jaff gave all British political officers refugee within her houses. This is when Adela Khanum defended, supported, fed, and gave the British refugee.Then they would ultimately give her the title Khan-Bahadur by Major Fraser, called her Princess of the Brave, and she would reign with the British far beyond the death of Osman Pasha Jaff in 1909.

<i>Queen of the Desert</i> (film) 2015 film by Werner Herzog

Queen of the Desert is a 2015 American epic biographical drama film written and directed by Werner Herzog and is based on the life of British traveller, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer and political officer Gertrude Bell. The film follows Bell's life chronologically, from her early twenties till her death. It is Herzog's first feature film in six years after his 2009 film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

Sharifian Solution British plan to install Hashemite family rulers in Middle East territories

The Sharifian or Sherifian Solution, as first put forward by T. E. Lawrence in 1918, was a plan to install three of Sharif Hussein's four sons as heads of state in newly created countries across the Middle East: his second son Abdullah ruling Baghdad and Lower Mesopotamia, his third son Faisal in Syria, and his fourth son Zeid in Upper Mesopotamia. The Sharif himself would not wield any political power in these places, and his first son, Ali would be his successor in Hejaz.


  1. 1 2 Bell, Gertrude (1927). Bell, Florence (ed.). The Letters of Gertrude Bell. London.
  2. Bell, Gertrude Lowthian. O'Brien, Rosemary (ed.). Gertrude Bell: The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914.
  3. "Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30686.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. Meyer, Karl E.; Brysac, Shareen B. (2008), Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., p. 162
  5. Del Testa, David W., ed. (2001). "Bell, Gertrude". Government Leaders, Military Rulers, and Political Activists. Westport, Connecticut: Oryx Press. p. 20.  via Questia (subscription required)
  6. O'Brien, Rosemary, ed. (2000), Gertrude Bell: The Arabian Diaries, 1913–1914, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Howell, Georgina (2008). Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations (Paperback ed.). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN   0-374-53135-8.
  9. O'Brien, pp. 5–6
  10. "LMH, Oxford - Prominent Alumni" . Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  11. 1 2 Howell, Georgina (2007). Queen of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell (Paperback ed.). Pan Macmillan. ISBN   978-1-4472-8626-4.
  12. "Greenwood, Alice Drayton". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/59037.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  13. Barlow, Henry S. (1995). Swettenham. Kuala Lumpur: Southdene. pp. 654–5.
  14. Barlow, Henry S. (1997). "Malaysia: Swettenham's Legacy". Asian Affairs. 28 (3): 333.
  15. 1 2 3 Lukitz, Liora (3 March 2006). A Quest in the Middle East: Gertrude Bell and the Making of Modern Iraq. I.B.Tauris. ISBN   978-1-85043-415-3 . Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  16. 1 2 "Gertrude Bell and the Birth of Iraq". 15 November 2011. Archived from the original on 23 October 2004. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  17. Berry, Helen (September 2013). "Gertrude Bell: adventurer, diplomat, mountaineer and anti-suffragette". BBC History Magazine. BBC. Retrieved 16 May 2017 via
  18. Cohen, Getzel M.; Sharp Joukowsky, Martha (2006). Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists. University of Michigan Press. p. 167. ISBN   978-0-472-03174-0.
  19. Alfred Werner Maurer. Mumbaqat 1977 report on the resources of the University of Saarbrücken, undertaken by the German Oriental Society excavation. Philologus Verlag, Basel, 2007.
  20. "Gertrude Bell on the 1910 Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art Exhibition in Munich".
  21. Bell, Gertrude (1927). Bell, Florence (ed.). "To Herbert Baker, Basrah, June 25, 1916". The Letters of Gertrude Bell, Volume 1. London. p. 379. He is going to give me a room in his office where I shall go two or three mornings a week... the other days I shall go on working at GHQ....Sir Percy's office is a quarter of an hour away.
  22. Bell, Gertrude (1927). Bell, Florence (ed.). "To Florence Bell, August 27, 1916". The Letters of Gertrude Bell, Volume 1. London: 386. He is going to give me a room in his office where I shall go two or three mornings a week... the other days I shall go on working at GHQ....Sir Percy's office is a quarter of an hour away.
  23. Townshend, Charles (2011). Desert Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press. p. 494. ISBN   0674061349.
  24. Rich, Paul J., ed. (2008). Iraq and Gertrude Bell's The Arab of Mesopotamia. Lanham: Lexington Books. p. 144. ISBN   1461633664.
  25. Fisk, Robert (2005). The Great War for Civilisation: the Conquest of the Middle East . London: Alfred Knopf. p.  327. ISBN   1-84115-007-X.
  26. Sobel, Andrew; Sheth, Jagdish (2001). Clients for Life Clients for Life: How Great Professionals Develop Breakthrough Relationships (Reprint ed.). Simon and Schuster. p. 64. ISBN   9780743215091.
  27. 1 2 3 Wallach, Janet (1996). Desert Queen. Bantam Doubleday Dell. p. 6. ISBN   978-0-307-74436-4.
  28. "Letters from Baghdad" documentary (2016) Directors: Sabine Krayenbühl, Zeva Oelbaum.
  29. "Miss Bell's Lines in the Sand", Guardian, 12 March 2003 Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  30. "Letters from Baghdad" documentary (2016) Directors: Sabine Krayenbühl, Zeva Oelbaum.
  31. Bell, Gertrude (20 May 2009). "Friday July 8. [8 July 1921]". The Letters. Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  32. "Letters from Baghdad" documentary (2016) Directors: Sabine Krayenbühl, Zeva Oelbaum.
  33. Mowla, Khondakar Golam (2008). "The Judgment Against Imperialism, Fascism and Racism Against Caliphate and Islam". AuthorHouse. p. 255. ISBN   978-1438910956.
  34. Johnson, Daniel (3 September 2006). "Putting the dons on their mettle". The Telegraph .
  35. Howell, Georgina (2006). Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 353. ISBN   978-1-4299-3401-5.
  36. "How Gertrude Bell caused a desert storm". The Telegraph. 21 February 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  37. Buchan, James (12 March 2003). "Miss Bell's lines in the sand". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  38. H.D.G. (1926). "Obituary: Gertrude Lowthian Bell". The Geographical Journal . 68 (4): 363–368. JSTOR   1783440.
  39. 1 2 3 Stewart, Rory (25 October 2007). "The Queen of the Quagmire". New York Review of Books. p. 1. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  40. 1 2 3 Stewart, Rory (25 October 2007). "The Queen of the Quagmire". New York Review of Books. p. 2. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  41. "Queen of the Desert". Metacritic. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  42. "Letters from Baghdad". Between the Rivers Productions. 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  43. "Letters from Baghdad". International Movie Database. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  44. Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). The Buildings of England: Yorkshire: The North Riding. Vol. 30. Penguin.
  45. "pictures of the memorial in East Rounton Church". Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  46. Engel, Michael; Alqarni, Abdulaziz; Shebl, Mohamed; Thomas, Jennifer (2019). "New genera of meliturguline bees from Saudi Arabia and Persia, with notes on related genera (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae)". Journal of Hymenoptera Research. 69: 1–21. doi: 10.3897/jhr.69.32561 .
  47. Yale, Pat (9 August 2016). "Gertrude of Arabia: the great adventurer may finally get her museum". The Guardian.
  48. "UNESCO celebrates archive of a remarkable woman". Newcastle University. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  49. "The Gertrude Bell Archive". UNSECO. Retrieved 5 October 2019.


Writings by Bell

Biographies of Bell

--- (paperback edition, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008) ISBN   0-374-53135-8

Other sources