She wrote expansively
about the ancient beliefs of various regions and documented the day to day
experiences of her travels as a prolific writer. She became the first director
of the state museum for the Antiquities in Baghdad, Iraq and also the first European
to travel and research on archaeologies in the deserts of the Middle East.
Though to some she might be not a known artisan, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Bell will forever be remembered as the brave woman who despite being in a world
where women were not highly regarded, contributed heavily to political
involvement especially as an activist. 
She was a highly influential to British imperial policy-making because
of the wide knowledge and ideas that she got during her broad and vast travels.

 

 

 

 

Gertrude
Margaret Bell was born on July 14, 1868, in Durham, England. She was brought up
in a wealthy family in Yorkshire town in a home her father had built. Her
father, Thomas Hugh Bell, was a businessman and industrialist. Bell’s mother,
Mary, died in 1871 after she gave birth to her young brother Maurice. Her
father later married Florence Bell while Gertrude was still of a young age.
Through this marriage, Gertrude had three more siblings. Florence Eveleen
Eleonore Olliff was a notable dramatist, novelist, and nonfiction writer.
Gertrude Bell started to learn a lot about politics and international affairs
from other countries through her grandfather and his associates. Gertrude’s
grandfather, Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell, was one of the members of parliament who
always worked along the then Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (Bell, 1911)

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Gertrude
was one of the most influential women during her time. This was during the era
of Victorian and towards the end of the 1920s. She enabled a revolution in her
education against the chauvinist preconceptions during her time. This even inspirited
her to herself as an extraordinary lady. She was able to break new grounds in
different fields. When Gertrude was 12 years old, she picked up on the books of
John Richard, The History of the English. She later skimmed through the letters
and memoirs of Mozart, Macaulay and many others. So, when she finally joined
Oxford it wasn’t shocking (Bell,1907). Most of the girls in her class were
taught at home until they reached the age of 17. They were later introduced to
the Queen. In about three to four seasons after been introduced to the society,
these girls were expected to find husbands. This meant that only a few women
during the Victorian era attended university or even aspired to. Girls were
brought up to look up Britain’s greatest role model Vitoria. Gertrude could
have been taught to be a better wife, mother and decent woman. The queen was
supposed to follow her household’s activities of motherhood and devotion to her
husband.

In
Gertrude’s time, women were exempted from many subjects. For instance, at
Oxford, lectures separated to prevent women from poisoning the environment as
it was referred to be. However, when Gertrude turned fifteen years old in 1883,
her father took her to Queen’s College in London. Due the smartness and
keenness that Bell had, her history lecturer later recommended to Gertrude’s
stepmother, Florence, to allow Gertrude go for further studies at the Modern
History School of Oxford at Lady Margaret Hall (Bell, 2015). One of Oxford’s
theologian made a controversial comment that the Lady Margaret Hall was an
informative development that ran counter to the wisdom and experiences of all
the centuries of Christendom. Nonetheless, with all the pessimism targeted to
Bell and her fellow peers, Bell still remained focused and strong minded. She
wanted to prove the pessimists how wrong they were (Bell,1911). As a student at
Oxford, History was her preferred subject. She excelled. Her history teacher at
Lady Margaret Hall made remarks that Bell was the only girl she had ever known
to have taken her school work and examinations in a very remarkable way. When
Gertrude died, one of her old classmates wrote that Bell Lowthian was the
bravest student Oxford had ever had. At the end of two years, she had already
won the first class in the school of modern history (Lukitz, 2006).

Gertrude
Bell was able to graduate from Oxford with honors. Afterwards, she traveled to
see her uncle, Sir Frank Lascelles who lived in Tehran, Iran. Her uncle served
as a British minister. This trip was able to trigger her interest in the Middle
East, the region that she could later in her life focus much of her energy.
Gertrude Bell invested in a travelling life; dedicated to the study of ancient
cultures and the preservation of antiquities. In the next 10 years after she
arrived the now Iran, Gertrude Bell killed in a two-round world of travels.
First was the Alps, a place Bell got known after enduring several hours on a
rope on the unclimbed north-east face of the Finsteraarhorn. This was after her
adventure was trapped in a storm in the summer of 1902.  She had already started to teach herself
Arabic in Jerusalem in 1897, began writing about Syria and teaching herself Archaeology.
While at Persia, she studied Farsi and Persian Poet, Hafiz. This led Gertrude
to later become one of the English translators. In the 14th century when Hafiz
was born in Persia, he became the court poet of Abu Ishak. Iranians highly
revered the work of Hafiz.

 Gertrude Bell had about 17 translations. These
were the most noteworthy translations of Hafiz. They were different from the
other past translators because they mostly addressed three most important
issues; purpose, audience and aesthetic value separately (Bell, 2015). Some
believed that Bell’s translation served as an indirect disobedience against
familiar strictures and also against the British colonial dislike. This work of
Bell developed her solidness as a linguist and an interpreter of the culture of
the Middle.

Gertrude
was a well and most renowned European traveler and writer in the Middle East,
who without fears traveled through the Arabian deserts sated with diseases and
raiders. Bell reported her work as an account of the people she met. She showed
what the world was like, described how the people she met lived and how it
appeared to them. The Arab Sheiks nicknamed Bell as The Daughter of the Desert.
In addition, Bell was highly respected since the Iranians had never met such a
strange woman. Bell’s writing mainly elaborated on how the Empire of Ottoman
ruled its people. Besides, she wrote on the culture of the Middle East. Because
of her broad knowledge, she was amongst the team that carved out the modern
borders of the Middle East.

Probably
Bell’s most known journey shortly before the First World War broke was when she
traveled from Damascus to Hayyil. This expedition was one of Bell’s most
dangerous travel due to the volatile nature of her destination. Its objective
was for Gertrude to spy about the revival tribes of Wahabi and Shammar and
gather information for the British government. This particular journey might
not have been very notable. Nevertheless, the information Gertrude obtained on
the Ottoman government and Rashid was of great ambassadorial importance. This
was a contribution to the decisions which were made at the start of the World
War 1 (Bell, 1927).

Bell
made tremendous contributions to archaeology. While she was in her 30s, she was
not satisfied with most of her achievements and decided that if she did
archaeological work, she might meet her exact standard for achievement. Between
the 5th and 11th centuries, Bell conducted a study and made records on abandoned
Abbasid and Byzantine architecture. She was able to learn the ways of the
desert. Gertrude also traveled to Syria and Anatolia in 1905, where she
conducted a customary survey of the remains she had come across. A book resulted
thereafter because of the work she had done. It was completed by an
ecclesiastical archaeologist called William Ramsay. Her work was described as
the most abiding works of scholarship on the Byzantine monuments of Asia minor,
even after 100 years later. It’s still considered as the standard work on this
subject (Lewis, 2010).

Gertrude’s
second contribution to archaeological work was in her book “The Palace and
Mosque at Ukhaidir”. It’s measured as being most important to archaeology; according
to archaeologists. In this work, Bell found out that Mesopotamia was in a state
of denial when she arrived back in 1917. Being one of the westerners who had
traveled widely to Levant, Palestine, her information was exceptional. She used
the brochures she had compiled priceless to the government of Mesopotamia in
the early years. Still on her contributions to archaeological work, the Iran
government was able to appoint Bell as the titular leader of the department of
the antiquities which was under the ministry of the communal work. As the
director, Gertrude was able to write laws on archaeological sites which was
passed by the Iran government. This brought a stable political climate
resulting to request to demeanor mines at Iraq’s most archaeological sites
flooding from different parts of the world. This shows how the need for an
updated antiunitary legislation was needed.

In
1923, Gertrude worked with the department of public works on a suggestion for
the museum so that the antiquities Bell had claimed for Iraq could be
displayed. Due to her tremendous effort within a short time frame, Bell had the
most valuable collections in the world of the objects which represented the
history of Iraq. They were displayed in the palace in Baghdad. Later on, Bell
was able to acquire a more useful building of the museum she had started. The
first building for the museum was called the Babylonian stone room (Bell, 2016).
It was this time period that Gertrude wrote about how she went to archaeology
and that she had nothing better than an antiquarian of a heart. She simply
referred to the lack of drill in spite of her skills for the archaeological
work she did. She had only taken few instructions from David Hogarth while she
was on holiday.

 It can be inferred that Gertrude was a diffident
and self- critical. The certainty that Gertrude was just a European
archaeologist who fought for so many valued objects of the origin of another
country made her more than just an antiquarian (Lewis, 2010). Gertrude’s role
in politics started diminishing as the logic of Iraq patriotism guided her into
the study of archaeology during her later days. Even though Bell was not the leader
of pro-independence ideas in Iraq, she was able to give citizens of Iraq a controlling
power over their antiquities. As a result, people of Iraq had a sense of
national identity and embraced the museums.

The
national museum of Iraq remains as an evidence of the legacy Gertrude left
behind. The collections in the museums are ruminated as the most significant in
the world since collections which features more than the 5000 years of the
history of Mesopotamia. However, back the year 2003 during the Gulf War, the
museum was burgled. The robber had stolen 170,000 valuable collections, but the
looted items were later restored (Bell, 2016). 
Today, the National Museum of Iraq is beautifully refurbished. Its galleries
are safe as they are heavily guarded from any attack. Bell had written a law of
excavations which was sanctioned in 1922. She ended the era of a self-taught
layperson and treasure hunters. Today, new methods of excavation have developed
and archaeology is in the hands of the Iraqis (Howell, 2010).

Gertrude
became the first ever woman to join the secret intelligence services.  This made her a pioneer in the history of
women. Because Gertrude was among the few westerns specialists on the east, she
was requested to join the British Intelligence in Basra. She was titled as the
Major Miss Bell in 1916 when she was appointed as the official correspondent to
Cairo. Her contributions included producing intelligence summaries and several
memos on the sheiks within and out of Mesopotamia. Sometimes, she held a
translation and codification of the Shia customs and reported on Syria and
Mesopotamia. Bell later took over the editorship of the Arabic newspaper which
was called the Al Arab. She depended on knowledge she had in the deserts to
consult various sheiks and many religious leaders to discover and know how they
viewed the future of their country.

In
the same vein, Gertrude was able to work with T.E Lawrence so that they could
organize and conduct an investigation on the Arab Revolt. However, their equals
debated if the Al Iraq could have strictly imperial authority, European
Government with the Arab government. Bell and Lawrence were able to influence
London to take the best option. After a fruitful research, Gertrude discovered
that Faisal who was then the new marionette leader of Iraq could be easily be
used and manipulated by the British government. This was later proven to be
true. Faisal was also an eligible leader since he was a Sayyid which was most
dominant Shia Iraq and was popularly accepted (Lewis, 2010). 

Since
Gertrude was so close with the ruler, this made even some historians to
hypothesize that there was a romantic affair between the two. Nevertheless,
Bell’s impact on the leader could have been because of the underpinning of
Bell’s identity in Iraq. The ruler later attempted to proclaim his independence
in 1922. The king could disagree on the discussions of a potential agreement of
association between Iraq and England. The government could then ignore the interests
of its people, induce antitreaty protest meetings and create instabilities in
the Shiite. This resulted to the high commissioner introducing and using a
direct rule so that the radical parties could be suppressed, banish any opposition
politicians and order the bombings of any rebellious tribal in the mid of
Euphrates. Gertrude tried to convince the ruler Faisal to allow the alliance.
During the subsequent 17 years, the constitution of the monarchy was overthrown
by the military group. At the moment, Iraqis face a foray to then British
imperialists who experience the same problems with controlling the Shias. Some
of the residents of Iraq do believe that the past lives within them (Bell, 1927).

Some
protagonists argue that the legacy Bell left is hanging by a thread. The
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants are now seeking to eradicate the
borders of Iraq and Syria that Gertrude worked so hard to develop. The desire
of ISIS is an all Sunni Islamic state. This is the area that was taken by
Caliph and Koran. Such insurgence can be inferred as a strong rejection of the
colonial superiority that the Sykes-Picot embraced for most of the secular
Arabians. Furthermore, the Iraqi monarchy that Bell advocated is also gone. On
the other hand, some think that Gertrude’s history of the Middle was dishonest
due the romanticizing by nationalist orientalist whose reflections might have
masked several other important relationships. However, they were in a grave
position to consolidate, shift or even under the genuine operational and
working of the imperial power.

Gertrude
attempts to unite the different ethnic and religious groups to form a modern Iraqi
state has seen equals in the determination of the United States of America to
form a post-­Saddam government. This would make it more important to analyze
Bell. Some learned professors now claim that the letters of Gertrude Bell are
being spread all over the Pentagon. The military leaders find Bell’s writings
perspective. Generally, it can be incurred that Gertrude Bell might not be
given the credit she deserves as a pioneer woman. This is because it is hidden
in the shadows of her men foils. For example, in the movie The English Patient,
some military soldiers attempted to study a map. In the movie, one of the
soldiers asked if they would go through the mountains, another solder answered
that the Bell maps would show them the way. They referred to Bell’s map and
maybe some assumed that it would have been a man who travelled though Arabia (Bell,
2015).

Though
Gertrude died later in 1926, her legacy still resonates till today in her
writings which are very important to many nations. While in Iraq, she gave the
Iraqis the nationalism they lacked through the museum she started. For the
Hashemite Dynasty, she aided to create stable rules over Jordan. Bell is one of
the influential women that will forever be remembered for what she did in the
women’s history.