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Bell, Gertrude

Bell, Gertrude (1868–1926). Traveller, archaeologist, and diplomatist in the Middle East. Bell took a first in modern history at Oxford at the age of 18 and then made herself expert in Persian before turning to Arabic in 1899 when she first visited the Middle East. Four major caravan journeys through the Syrian and Arabian region and some archaeological digs between 1905 and 1913 led to an RGS medal and several books, the best known being The Desert and the Sown. With her large knowledge of the Turkish empire she was recruited as a British political officer in the Great War. Although not always able to reconcile Foreign Office and government of India policies and herself sometimes erratic in her general support of the Arab cause, she became an important figure, especially in the mandated territory of Iraq, which emerged after the war. One result of her influence with King Feisal and British officials was the opportunity to build on her earlier scholarly interests by setting up the museum in Baghdad.

Roy C. Bridges

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