BookReview: Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia
by Janet Wallach, Anchor Books, July 12, 2005, 1400096197
Gertrude Bell was known as Iraq's Uncrowned Queen or the Khatun to the Iraqis. Janet Wallach does a great job at telling us what drove Gertrude Bell to such an unlikely life, and what it was like for Bell when she was finally there.
Bell was a contemporary of T. E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, and many others. She made a lot of interesting things happen, such as putting King Faisal on the throne, and so much more. Her accomplishments were often acting as an unofficial diplomat of the British Empire. And, unfortunately, so much of her life was devoted to becoming a Person, as she liked call notables.
After Faisal was on the throne, and the King was operating independently, she became head of the Department of Antiquities of Iraq in Baghdad. This was not enough to keep her happy, after being the confidante of Kings and Emirs. Instead of retiring peacefully working in antiquities (which she loved), she took her life at 58.
What she was seeking all her life was probably not what she wanted. That is often the conundrum which drives people to greatness, and, unfortunately, tragedy.
One thing I learned about history was Iraq's position along the route to India. Iraq was on the land route (Baghdad was a stop on the Orient Express), which was very important for Britain's continuing control of India.
Interestingly, she was not a suffragette, and indeed hated the idea of women getting the right to vote. She was a tradionalist who felt a woman's power was behind the scenes.
Via Rob 1/13/2008
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