Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia
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Turning away from the privileged world of the "eminent Victorians," Gertrude Bell (1868—1926) explored, mapped, and excavated the world of the Arabs. Recruited by British intelligence during World War I, she played a crucial role in obtaining the loyalty of Arab leaders, and her connections and information provided the brains to match T. E. Lawrence's brawn. After the war, she played a major role in creating the modern Middle East and was, at the time, considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire.
In this masterful biography, Janet Wallach shows us the woman behind these achievements–a woman whose passion and defiant independence were at odds wit the confined and custom-bound England she left behind. Too long eclipsed by Lawrence, Gertrude Bell emerges at last in her own right as a vital player on the stage of modern history, and as a woman whose life was both a heartbreaking story and a grand adventure.
town to be rebuilt. It was a punishment Wilson would use again and again. The same day that the news came in about the murders, Gertrude was having lunch with General Haldane. To the irritation of the civil administrators, the general was about to take his high command on holiday in Persia and would not be back until October. After chatting about common acquaintances in London, Gertrude got up to leave. If news reached him that the tribes had taken Baghdad, would he return before October? she
Mosul and the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, with their inflammatory religious leaders; the Anglo-French Declaration and the problems the British encountered up until the time of the mandate; the organization of the Civil Administration, including the establishment of schools and a unified educational system, the building of hospitals and medical care, the creation of a judicial system, the formation of a police corps, a commercial department and tax agencies; the pacification of the tribes
explained. “It is like when Sidi Faisal was in London and always wore Arab dress, there was no one like him. So for a hundred years they’ll talk of the Khatun riding by.” “I think they very likely will,” Gertrude remarked. The telephone rang in her office later that September day, the voice on the other end asking her to dine with the King. Two Arab Ministers were already invited to her own house, but she called them quickly to cancel. “I think it’s best to treat Faisal’s invitation as
most powerful woman in the British Empire. Newspapers around the world proclaimed her the “Uncrowned Queen of Iraq,” and the “Queen of the Desert.” Her commitment to the newly created country ensured that women had greater rights than under the Turks, along with equal health care and equal education; up until recently, women in Western clothes moved easily through Baghdad and held positions as architects, engineers, archaeologists, teachers, doctors, and lawyers. One can only hope that the same
British and the French. Sykes agreed with Gertrude “that the Arabs can’t govern themselves,” she wrote to Lord Robert; “no one is more aware of that than I.” But she believed that the Arabs would be dependent upon the British and would willingly approach them for advice on running their new state after the war. Her major concern was the French. She believed that the French would ignore the Arabs’ needs and thus provoke them, risking the possibility of a future Arab war against the West. She tried