Gertrude Bell

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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.

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Greater Syria irredentism

Greater Syria, also "Natural Syria" or "Northern Country" Arabic: بِلَاد الشَّام‎, romanized: Bilād ash-Shām, is a Levantine region which extends roughly over the medieval Arab Caliphate province of Bilad al-Sham. The Hellenistic name of the region, "Syria", was used by the Ottomans in the Syria Vilayet until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The wave of Arab nationalism in the region evolved towards the creation of a new "Great Syria" over French-governed Occupied Enemy Territory Administration, declared as Hashemite Kingdom on March 1920, claiming extent over the entire Levant. Following the Franco-Syrian War, in July 1920, French armies defeated the newly proclaimed Arab Kingdom of Syria and captured Damascus, aborting the Arab state. The area was consequently partitioned under French and British Mandates into Greater Lebanon, various Syrian states, Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan. Syrian states were gradually unified as the State of Syria and became the independent Republic of Syria in 1946.

Mesopotamia Historical region within the Tigris–Euphrates river system

Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.


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]

Iraq Republic in Western Asia

Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, and largest city, is Baghdad. Iraq is home to diverse ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Turkmen, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians and Kawliya. Around 95% of the country's 37 million citizens are Muslims, with Christianity, Yarsan, Yezidism and Mandeanism also present. The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish.

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]

Washington, Tyne and Wear town in the City of Sunderland, in Tyne and Wear, England

Washington is a new town in the City of Sunderland local government district of Tyne and Wear, England, and part of historic County Durham. Washington is located geographically at an equal distance from the centres of Newcastle, Durham and Sunderland, hence it has close ties to all three cities.

County Durham County of England

County Durham is a county in North East England. The county town is Durham, a cathedral city. The largest settlement is Darlington, closely followed by Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees. It borders Tyne and Wear to the north east, Northumberland to the north, Cumbria to the west and North Yorkshire to the south. The county's historic boundaries stretch between the rivers Tyne and Tees, thus including places such as Gateshead, Jarrow, South Shields and Sunderland.

Ironmaster manager/owner of a forge or blast furnace

An ironmaster is the manager, and usually owner, of a forge or blast furnace for the processing of iron. It is a term mainly associated with the period of the Industrial Revolution, especially in Great Britain.

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.

Sir Maurice Hugh Lowthian Bell, 3rd Baronet was a British soldier.

Sir Hugh Bell, 2nd Baronet British industrialist and politician

Sir Thomas Hugh Bell, 2nd Baronet, was mayor of Middlesbrough three times – in 1874, 1883 and 1911 – High Sheriff of Durham 1895, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant of County Durham, Lord Lieutenant of the North Riding of Yorkshire. He joined his family firm, Bell Brothers, and became director of its steelworks at Middlesbrough. Sir Hugh was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 1918 Birthday Honours.

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]

Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore Bell, was a British writer and playwright.

Eston town in North Yorkshire, England

Eston is a town in North Yorkshire, England. The local council, a unitary authority, is Redcar and Cleveland.

Middlesbrough Place in England

Middlesbrough is a large post-industrial town on the south bank of the River Tees in the county of North Yorkshire, England, founded in 1830. The local council, a unitary authority, is Middlesbrough Borough Council. The 2011 Census recorded the borough's total resident population as 138,400 and the wider urban settlement with a population of 174,700. Middlesbrough is part of the larger built-up area of Teesside which had an overall population of 376,333 at the 2011 Census.

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]

Queens College, London independent school for girls in the City of Westminster, London

Queen's College is an independent school for girls aged 11–18 with an adjoining prep school for girls aged 4–11 in the City of Westminster, London. Founded in 1848 by theologian and social reformer Frederick Denison Maurice, Professor of English Literature and History at King's College London, along with a committee of patrons, the College was the first institution in the world to award academic qualifications to women. In 1853, it also became the first girls' school to be granted a Royal Charter for the furtherance of women's education. Ever since, the College patron has been a British queen; the current patron is Queen Elizabeth II.

Alice Drayton Greenwood (1862–1935) was a British historian, teacher and writer.

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 Turkish. 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, "Turks 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.

Some consider 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 that it was clearly understood that there were just not many (if any) permanent solutions for calming the divisive forces at work in that part of the world. [8] :413–419

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, 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." [28]

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". [29]

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". [30] [31]

Mark Sykes, the British diplomat responsible for the Sykes–Picot Agreement, was not fond of her. [32]

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. [33] 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. [34]


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 [35]

Stewart notes that Bell was "both more lively and more honest" than political statements in his time. [35] 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." [35] He quotes Bell's colleague, T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), as saying that she was "not a good judge of men or situations", [36] 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." [36] However, Stewart praises her 1920 White Paper, comparing it to General Petraeus's report to the US Congress. [36]


Posthumous tributes

Gertrude Bell's work was specially mentioned in the British Parliament, and she was awarded 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. [40] 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. [41]

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 [42] .


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 has not been maintained in recent years. Turning the building into a memorial to Gertrude is partially the result of a popular 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. [43]


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

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H. R. P. Dickson British colonial administrator in the Middle East and author of several books on Kuwait

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Richard Patrick Dickson was a British colonial administrator in the Middle East from the 1920s until the 1940s, and author of several books on Kuwait.

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Arab Kingdom of Syria former country

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Huzaima bint Nasser (1884–1935) was an Arabian princess, Sharifa of Mecca. She was Queen of Syria and then Queen of Iraq by marriage to Faisal I of Iraq, and queen mother during the reign of her son.

This is a timeline of major events in the history of the modern state of Jordan.

Arab nationalism Political ideology

Arab nationalism is a nationalist ideology that asserts the Arabs are a nation and promotes the unity of Arab people, celebrating the glories of Arab civilization, the language and literature of the Arabs, calling for rejuvenation and political union in the Arab world. Its central premise is that the peoples of the Arab world, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean, constitute one nation bound together by common ethnicity, language, culture, history, identity, geography and politics. One of the primary goals of Arab nationalism is the end of Western influence in the Arab world, seen as a "nemesis" of Arab strength, and the removal of those Arab governments considered to be dependent upon Western power. It rose to prominence with the weakening and defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century and declined after the defeat of the Arab armies in the Six-Day War.

<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?

Occupation of Zor

The Occupation of Zor was the 1918-20 occupation of the Zor Sanjak in Upper Mesopotamia after World War I by Iraqi nationalists representing the Arab government in Damascus led by Emir Faisal. Contrary to the intentions of the Iraqi nationalists, the occupation ensured that the region became part of the modern state of Syria.

Sharifian Solution

The Sharifian 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.


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Writings by Bell

Biographies of Bell

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

Other sources