- NAME: Gertrude Bell
- OCCUPATION: Archaeologist, Explorer, Political Leader, Writer
- BIRTH DATE: July 14, 1868
- DEATH DATE: July 12, 1926
- EDUCATION: Oxford University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Durham, England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: Baghdad, Iraq
- Full Name: Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell, CBE
- Full Name: Gertrude Bell
- Originally: Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell
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Gertrude Bell was a British writer, archaeologist and political officer best known for helping to establish modern Iraq after World War I.
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Gertrude Bell was born on July 14, 1868, in Durham, England. She studied history at Oxford and embarked on a career as a writer, traveler and archaeologist. Fluent in Persian and Arabic, Bell worked for the British government in Cairo during World War I. She contributed to the construction of the Iraqi state in 1921, as well as the National Museum of Iraq. Bell died in Baghdad on July 12, 1926.
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born on July 14, 1868, in Durham, England. Her grandfather, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, was a member of Parliament who worked alongside Benjamin Disraeli. Gertrude Bell gained her first exposure to politics and world affairs through her grandfather and his associates. Raised in a wealthy family, she attended Oxford University, earning a degree in history.
Following her graduation from Oxford, Bell traveled to Tehran, Iran, where her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles, was serving as a British minister. This trip sparked her interest in the Middle East, the region on which she would focus much of her energy for the remainder of her life.
In 1899, Gertrude Bell visited Palestine and Syria, touching off a period of sustained travel in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Her writings on her experiences across the globe informed British audiences about the distant parts of their empire. Bell's works published during the two decades preceding World War I include Safar Nameh (1894), Poems from the Divan of Hafiz (1897), The Desert and the Sown (1907), The Thousand and One Churches (1909) and Amurath to Amurath (1911). She also maintained vast correspondence, which was compiled and published in 1927.
Bell helped to shape political relationships in the Middle East after the conclusion of World War I—becoming the first and only British woman to participate so fully in the process. During the war, she worked in France before joining the Arab Bureau in Cairo, Egypt. There, she collaborated with famed British traveler T.E. Lawrence to try to forge alliances with Arab tribes. Her writings about her experience in the Middle East—particularly Iraq—continue to be studied and referenced by policy experts in the 21st century.
British forces captured Baghdad in 1917. Subsequently, Bell became involved in the political reinvention of Mesopotamia, where she helped colonial authorities install ruler Faisal I as monarch of Iraq. Fluent in Arabic and Persian, Bell assisted British diplomats and local rulers in the construction of a stable government infrastructure. She was the only woman present at the 1921 Conference in Cairo, convened by Winston Churchill to determine the boundaries of the Iraqi state.
Despite her own political achievements, Bell actively opposed women's suffrage in Britain. She argued that the vast majority of her contemporaries lacked the education and knowledge of the world necessary to participate meaningfully in political debate.
Bell remained in Baghdad after Faisal's 1921 ascension, working to fund and construct an archaeological museum.
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