Howell, Georgina 1942-

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Howell, Georgina 1942-


Born 1942; married.


Home—London, England, and France. Agent—Simon Trewin, PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England.


Writer, journalist, and editor. Observer, London, England, fashion editor, 1964-67; has also worked as features editor for Vogue and deputy editor for the Tatler, both London; writer for Vanity Fair; contract writer for Vogue, New York, NY; and special features writer for Sunday Times, London.


Vogue talent contest winner.


In Vogue: Six Decades of Fashion, Allen Lane (London, England), 1975, published as In Vogue: Sixty Years of International Celebrities and Fashion from British Vogue, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1976.

The Penguin Book of Naughty Postcards, Penguin (New York, NY), 1977.

Sultans of Style: Thirty Years of Fashion and Passion, 1960-90, Ebury Press (London, England), 1990.

In Vogue: 75 Years of Style, Condé Nast Books (London, England), 1991.

Diana: Her Life in Fashion, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1998.

Vogue Women, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell, Macmillan (London, England), 2006, published as Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2007.


Georgina Howell is a journalist, editor, and writer whose numerous books often focus on stories of style, high fashion, and celebrity. She has worked as a writer for Vanity Fair and the London Sunday Times. For many years, she was the features editor for the British version of Vogue magazine, and she later wrote for the American Vogue. Among her works is a history of the magazine and a study of the women and celebrities who appeared within its pages.

Howell turns her attention to a different type of celebrity from another era in Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, published in England as Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell. In this extensive biography, Howell tells the story of the woman who, as much as anyone else, was responsible for the creation of modern Iraq. Howell's "excellent biography considers how a female descendant of Cumbrian sheep farmers became a major figure in Middle East diplomacy," noted Peggy Nichols Nash in the Houston Chronicle. Beautiful and determined, Bell was an intelligent, iconoclastic diplomat. Born into Victorian society, she turned away from a life of wealth and privilege and instead embraced education, adventure, and service to the world at large. After earning a first-class degree in history at Oxford University, and becoming the first woman to do so, she turned her attention to the little-known world of the Middle East. She climbed the Matterhorn. She collected and classified plant seeds from the harsh Syrian desert. She traveled throughout the Ottoman empire, photographing mosques and churches. She translated Sufi poetry. She learned to speak fluent Arabic and other languages, and negotiated her own escape from a hostile desert tribe that took her captive.

In addition to these considerable accomplishments, Bell learned much from the tribal sheikhs in the desert, hearing and recording their history directly from them. In a world famous for its oppression of women, Bell earned the respect of tribal leaders she encountered. Beginning in 1916, Bell worked with a stellar group of British diplomats and organizers, among them T.E. Lawrence, who would later become better known as Lawrence of Arabia. As Oriental Secretary of the region around Cairo and Basra, Bell eventually became the major architect of the creation of the nation of Iraq and instrumental in putting the country's first ruler, King Faisal, on the throne, where he ruled from 1921 to 1958.

Despite her many personal achievements and diplomatic successes, Bell never married—her most likely suitor, a married soldier named Dick Doughty-Wylie, was killed at Gallipoli. Some believe that her death at age fifty-seven was the result of a suicide. Even if her personal life was tragic, however, Bell's political accomplishments were genuine, and significant. Howell's "excellent biography of Gertrude Bell, the woman behind the creation of modern Iraq, goes far towards making her a true heroine," commented a reviewer in the Economist. Howell's "spectacular biography leaves the reader lost in admiration and steeped in sorrow," observed Booklist critic Donna Seaman. In her research on Bell, "Howell has unearthed some wonderful material, and she wisely interweaves her text with plenty of quotations from Bell's own trenchant prose. Some of the most clearsighted things ever written about Iraq (at least in English) came from the pen of Gertrude Bell," remarked Robert F. Worth in the New York Times Book Review. A reviewer in the New Yorker concluded that, in Howell's hands, Bell emerges as "a figure of great intellect, political prescience, and indefatigable spirit."



Atlantic Monthly, June, 2007, "The Woman Who Made Iraq: Gertrude Bell Scaled the Alps, Mapped Arabia, and Midwifed Modern Middle East," review of Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, p. 119.

Booklist, August, 1998, Brad Hooper, review of Diana: Her Life in Fashion, p. 1956; February 15, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of Gertrude Bell, p. 32.

Chicago Tribune, May 23, 2007, Ron Grossman, "Gertrude Bell: Exploring the Life of an Adventurer Who Broke the Mold of the Victorian-Era Woman," review of Gertrude Bell.

Economist, September 9, 2006, "Gertrude of Arabia; Gertrude Bell," review of Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell, p. 79.

Entertainment Weekly, April 20, 2007, Lisa Schwarzbaum, "Gertrude of Arabia," review of Gertrude Bell, p. 64.

Guardian (London, England), September 3, 2006, Rachel Aspden, "Read and Digest, Mr. Blair," review of Daughter of the Desert.

Houston Chronicle, May 25, 2007, Peggy Nichols Nash, "A Life of Firsts," review of Gertrude Bell.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2007, review of Gertrude Bell, p. 112.

New Yorker, April 16, 2007, review of Gertrude Bell, p. 153.

New York Times Book Review, April 29, 2007, Robert F. Worth, "Gertrude of Arabia," review of Gertrude Bell, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly, February 19, 2007, review of Gertrude Bell, p. 163.

Spectator, September 9, 2006, Justin Marozzi, "Leading Orientalist or Blethering Ass?," review of Daughter of the Desert.

St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, FL), April 22, 2007, Steve Weinberg, "A Nation Builder in Petticoats," review of Gertrude Bell.

Wilson Quarterly, summer, 2007, Amy Schwartz, "Gertrude of Arabia," review of Gertrude Bell, p. 102.


Agence Global, (June 15, 2007), Charles Glass, "Iraq's Founding Mother," review of Gertrude Bell.

Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo, Egypt), (January 11, 2007), David Tresilian, "Gertrude Bell—Take Three," review of Daughter of the Desert.

BookPage, (September 2, 2007), Joanna Brichetto, review of Diana.

Curled Up with a Good Book, (September 2, 2007), Barbara Bamberger Scott, review of Gertrude Bell.

PFD Web site, (September 2, 2007), biography of Georgina Howell.

Ralph, (September 2, 2007), Lolita Lark, review of Vogue Women.