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Gertrude Bell: Desert Queen by Georgina…
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Gertrude Bell: Desert Queen

by Georgina Howell

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Gertrude Bell did many remarkable things - mountaineering, learning Arabic, Turkish and cartography so she could travel across Arabia mapping archaeological sites - in an era when Victorian/Edwardian women of the privileged classes were expected to marry and devote themselves quietly to their families. She enjoyed herself. At a time when many working- and middle-class women were struggling so hard for the franchise and impoved conditions for all women she was most obviously only interested in her own pleasures, however difficult and dangerous.

It's only in her forties, after her difficult journey to Hayyil, and the expert advice she gave to the British govt about the various Arab tribes and allegiances at the beginning of the First World War that her story starts to open out to a wider and more interesting political context. She became deeply involved with British attempts to get Arab support against the Turks during WWI, and with efforts to ensure Arab self-determination afterwards in the face of entrenched colonialist attitudes, which resulted in the establishment of the state of Iraq.

All-in-all mildly interesting but I was not enthralled. ( )
  SChant | Jan 7, 2014 |
A well-written book of an amazing life. Gertrude Bell was born into a wealthy family in Victorian England. Rather than living a typical high society life, she chose to study history at Oxford and travel the world. Her travels in the Arab world made her indispensable to British Intelligence during World War I and she was a key negotiator in the partitioning of the former Ottoman Empire. Her life story was fascinating - definitely a character that I would have loved to have met. ( )
  jmoncton | Jun 3, 2013 |
An excellent biography with just enough context to understand her significance. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
An amazing story about a truly incredible woman. Best known as an integral player in the founding of Iraq, she was so much more than that. She was a daring and talented amateur mountain climber whose climbs are still revered today. She implemented a system to keep track of missing, dead and wounded soldiers in WWI which included enlisted men for the first time ever. She had two tragic loves in her life but never married. She walked right into a man's world and made them take notice of her for her brilliant mind and political acumen in a day and age when women were supposed to sit at home with the children.
The story about this truly amazing woman reads like fiction. It also gives an interesting perspective on Iraq, the Middle East and British colonialism. ( )
2 vote SamanthaMarie | Dec 1, 2009 |
In a time when many women led limited existences, Gertrude Bell broke out of the "traditional" roles that could have easily been her station in life and learned languages, conducted archaeological digs, completed desert expeditions, mapped unknown territories, climbed mountains, and many more difficult endeavors.
While the author clearly portrays her subject in a positive light, the writing is a bit tedious and/or poorly organized in spots, but Ms Bell's exploits are so fascinating and far reaching it doesn't significantly detract from the entertainment value of the book. I believe this book would make a marvelous addition to reading lists for college-bound high school seniors or college freshmen (male and female). ( )
  dele2451 | Jun 9, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374531358, Paperback)

A marvelous tale of an adventurous life of great historical import
 
She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born in 1868 into a world of privilege, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author (of Persian Pictures, The Desert and the Sown, and many other collections), poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer (she took off her skirt and climbed the Alps in her underclothes).

She traveled the globe several times, but her passion was the desert, where she traveled with only her guns and her servants. Her vast knowledge of the region made her indispensable to the Cairo Intelligence Office of the British government during World War I. She advised the Viceroy of India; then, as an army major, she traveled to the front lines in Mesopotamia. There, she supported the creation of an autonomous Arab nation for Iraq, promoting and manipulating the election of King Faisal to the throne and helping to draw the borders of the fledgling state. Gertrude Bell, vividly told and impeccably researched by Georgina Howell, is a richly compelling portrait of a woman who transcended the restrictions of her class and times, and in so doing, created a remarkable and enduring legacy.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:46:50 -0400)

She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born into privilege in 1868, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author, poet, photographer, and mountaineer. She traveled the globe several times, but her passion was the desert--her vast knowledge of the region made her indispensable to the British government during World War I. As an army major on the front lines in Mesopotamia, she supported the creation of an autonomous Arab nation for Iraq, promoting and manipulating the election of King Faisal to the throne and helping to draw the borders of the fledgling state.--From publisher description.… (more)

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