Gertrude of Iraq
March 23, 2003 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Have I ever told you what the river is like on a hot summer night? At dusk the mist hangs in long white bands over the water; the twilight fades and the lights of the town shine out on either bank, with the river, dark and smooth and full of mysterious reflections, like a road of triumph through the midst. - Gertrude Bell writing of the Euphrates near Baghdad.

Gertrude Bell - daughter of the desert, Uncrowned Queen of Iraq, Advisor to kings and Ally of Lawrence of Arabia. Gertrude Bell was a traveller and mountaineer, recruited by British Intelligence to work in the Middle East during the First World War and, who later worked for the British Government in Baghdad. Bell's influence on Middle Eastern politics made her the most powerful woman in the British Empire in the years after World War I. She was a archeologist, writer, translated the poetry of Hafiz and a photographer as well. 1909: Letters from Gertrude Bell, dated May 14 and May 20. She died early in the morning of July 12th, 1926, 58 years old, from an overdose of sleeping pills--whether accidental or not is not known. She is buried in Baghdad, where her grave is still visited and her memory revered. Cherchez La Femme
posted by y2karl (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Also, ‘Uncrowned queen of Iraq’ determined the makeup and future of the modern Iraqi state.

I thought to see if I could make a post about Iraq that was not about the War...
posted by y2karl at 7:44 AM on March 23, 2003

Plese. no French phrases
posted by Postroad at 8:43 AM on March 23, 2003

Thanks for the interesting links! I had never heard of her. Sounds like a very intense and driven person. The story of her (possible) suicide is sad. She had a dream... and doubtless did some good... but in the end, it may have been the wrong dream.

The idea of the 'nation-state', the political entity that is composed of an ethnically and probably religiously homogenous people, is a very powerful one. It's not PC, it doesn't celebrate 'diversity', but the most successful and least troubled nations seem to be nation-states, the US and Canada (modulo Quebec), being notable exceptions. If the Ottoman Empire had been dissolved and recreated along ethnic/religious lines (as Europe basically was in the 19th century), rather than what the British did, things might have gone a lot more smoothly. What was Bell trying to do in Iraq, anyway? Recreate the Chaldaen empire?

Senior Indian officials, such as the formidable AT Wilson, argued that the religious and tribal divisions in Iraq would for ever undermine an Iraqi state.


She had some great lines though, didn't she? "I'll never engage in creating kings again; it's too great a strain."
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:12 AM on March 23, 2003

What was Bell trying to do in Iraq, anyway? Recreate the Chaldaen empire?

Or Mesopotamia.

Plese. no French phrases

lèche mon cul, retourne enculer les mouches
posted by y2karl at 9:56 AM on March 23, 2003

Hey Karl, great post. I've been re-reading Jeremy Wilson's Lawrence of Arabia over the past week or so, and have been finding the saga of Bell, Lawrence, Feisel, Hogarth, the Sykes-Picot agreement and the entire WWI Arabian campaign to have some startling and fascinating echoes on current events. I wonder what Lawrence and Bell would think of things now.
posted by anastasiav at 10:03 AM on March 23, 2003

Thanks Karl. Sounds like a wonderful lady. Someone should make a film about her.
posted by ginz at 10:45 AM on March 23, 2003

Thanks for the introduction, Karl!

Also, thousands of Gertrude's photos online here (link at the bottom of the page).
posted by taz at 2:19 PM on March 23, 2003

Oh, thank you so much!
posted by y2karl at 3:39 PM on March 23, 2003

taz, those are very interesting photos... but the java-based viewing mechanism is painful.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:40 PM on March 23, 2003

But worth it
posted by y2karl at 9:01 PM on March 23, 2003

I must note that the previous image is from a source other than Taz's, given as an example as to why it's worth the effort to work your way through those pictures Slithy_Tove describes.
posted by y2karl at 9:04 PM on March 23, 2003

Groovy links. I did some research on her for a novel idea I was tossing around last year, and didn't see some of these. She's really quite facinating.
posted by dejah420 at 9:39 PM on March 23, 2003

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