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Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2007

    In Search of a New Gertrude Bell for Fixing Iraq

    Georgina Howell brings to life Gertrude Bell, a woman whose accomplishments deserve to be better known than they have been. Born into the sixth-richest family in Britain in 1868, Bell got an education equal to that of a man. Young Bell was a ¿social hand grenade¿ due to her extraordinary self-confidence and intellectual brilliance. Bell did not get along well with the less developed personalities and intellects around her. Despite her efforts to get married and have a family of her own, Bell never managed to find true happiness. As Howell clearly demonstrates through her book, Bell never fully recovered from the premature death of Henry Cadogan, with whom she fell in love in 1892. Bell fluctuated all her life between looking for personal fulfillment and devoting herself to the well-being of the community for no reward. Despite these repeated setbacks in her private life, Bell would emerge as one of the most important architects of the modern Middle East. Bell first discovered the region when she traveled to Persia (modern Iran) in 1892. Bell¿s obsession with archeology became the driver behind her desert expeditions before WWI. Bell published different books about her archeological findings and learned to speak Arabic on top of five other languages during that period. The knowledge that Bell got about the Middle East and its people proved invaluable when Britain fought the Turks in the region during the Great War. The same knowledge played a decisive roll in leading the Arabs to nationhood in the aftermath of WWI. Unsurprisingly, Bell has been compared to T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, who launched the Arab Revolt. Unlike Lawrence, Bell remained dedicated to the cause of Arabs until they played a leading role in countries such as Transjordan (modern Jordan) and Iraq. Thanks to Bell¿s managerial skills, Iraq emerged as a working Sunni-dominated polity under the leadership of King Faisal by the time of her suicide in Baghdad in 1926. Most importantly, Howell gives contemporary readers some valuable insights into modern Iraq that I had the privilege to discover long before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The chapter ¿Government through Gertrude¿ is probably the most fascinating and also the most relevant of all in fixing a broken Iraq. Bell was someone that every prominent man in Iraq, regardless of races, creeds, and allegiances, could trust. Bell kept her word and was fearless in trusting her life to these prominent men when traveling alone in their lands. Bell not only won trust for the British administration, but also worked on improving relationships between the different races, creeds, and allegiances. Unsurprisingly, Bell was greeted as ¿Khatun,¿ i.e., desert queen, or ¿Umm al Muminin,¿ i.e., Mother of the Faithful, after Ayishah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Gertrude Bell is an extremely fascinating and impressive woman w

    Gertrude Bell is an extremely fascinating and impressive woman who, unfortunately, is basically unknown to the public.  Accordingly, the author in this well researched and extremely informative book does an outstanding job of bring her subject to life.  However! I found the book in places overly detailed without adding to the reader's understanding.  

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 15, 2011

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    Posted June 24, 2013

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