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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian

Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (lō´ŧħēən), 1868–1926, British traveler, author, and government official, one of the builders of the modern state of Iraq, grad. Oxford, 1887. From 1899 on she journeyed extensively in Persia, Anatolia, and Syria and early in 1914 reached Haïl in the Arabian Desert. In World War I she placed her unmatched knowledge of Middle Eastern conditions and her fluent Arabic and Persian at the disposal of the British government and in 1915 was appointed to the intelligence service—the first woman to hold such a post. As liaison officer of the Arab Bureau in Iraq and assistant political officer, her aid was invaluable. She knew and worked with T. E. Lawrence and was largely responsible for delineating Iraq's borders and for the selection of Faisal I as the country's king. She also founded and directed the National Museum in Baghdad. Her writings include Poems from the Divan of Hafiz (1897), The Desert and the Sown (1907), Amurath to Amurath (1911), Palace and Mosque at Ukhaidar (1914), The Arab of Mesopotamia (1917), and Persian Pictures (1928; pub. anonymously as Safar Nameh, 1894).

See her Earlier Letters (ed. by E. Richmond, 1937) and Letters (new ed. 1947); biographies by J. Kamm (1956), A. Northgrave (1958), J. Wallach (1995), and G. Howell (2007).

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