read online Textbooks Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of ArabiaAuthor Janet Wallach – Mariahilff.de

Turning away from the privileged world of the eminent Victorians, Gertrude Bell explored, mapped, and excavated the world of the Arabs Recruited by British intelligence during World War I, she played a crucial role in obtaining the loyalty of Arab leaders, and her connections and information provided the brains to match T E Lawrence s brawn After the war, she played a major role in creating the modern Middle East and was, at the time, considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire In this masterful biography, Janet Wallach shows us the woman behind these achievements a woman whose passion and defiant independence were at odds wit the confined and custom bound England she left behind Too long eclipsed by Lawrence, Gertrude Bell emerges at last in her own right as a vital player on the stage of modern history, and as a woman whose life was both a heartbreaking story and a grand adventure


10 thoughts on “Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia

  1. Michael Michael says:

    An excellent account of a fascinating woman who was both a product of her times and one who broke new ground for accomplishments in a male dominated world Bell s passion for the culture and peoples of the Middle East served the British Empire well for intelligence and liaison work during World War 1, and she had a major impact in setting the path toward Arab self rule, most notably in the establishment of Iraq and Jordan under monarchies of the Hussein family Bell is best known for her work wi An excellent account of a fascinating woman who was both a product of her times and one who broke new ground for accomplishments in a male dominated world Bell s passion for the culture and peoples of the Middle East served the British Empire well for intelligence and liaison work during World War 1, and she had a major impact in setting the path toward Arab self rule, most notably in the establishment of Iraq and Jordan under monarchies of the Hussein family Bell is best known for her work with T.E Lawrence during the war for helping foment and support Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks and for her collaboration with him to get Faisal placed first on the throne of Syria and later Mesopotamia aka Iraq Even without being Bell s importance in world shaping, her story his worth experiencing in Wallach s telling She covers closely her personal metamorphosis from obedient Victorian daughter of an wealthy industrialist to a modern self determined woman who qualified as what she termed a Person with a capital P Wallach does a masterly job at covering the influences of Bell s upbringing on her personality and life choices without resorting to the discredited methods of psychohistory The death of her mother at age three is inferred to contribute to her lifelong intensive bond with her father as well as to self reliance At home in a rural area of Northumbria near the family factories, she developed a love of nature, rock climbing, horse riding, and gardening Her recourse to reading led from the allure of The Arabian Nights to poetry, biographies and histories of other cultures But she chaffed under the priggish control of her French stepmother, a writer of operas, and ended up getting sent away to boarding school She took to scholarship so well she was able to talk her father into going off to study history at Oxford, one of very few women to achieve a degree there.After college, the problem of her not finding a marriage partner was becoming an embarrassment She was brash and immature, and in spite of her dazzling scholastic achievements Gertrude had failed the most important test of all Unlike her two friends from home, she had no one to ask for her hand in marriage She was twenty years old, a snob, a bluestocking, a woman with an attitude Her haughtiness and self importance hardly appealed to eligible young men, and those who dared to court her were soon dismissed. Her parents persuaded her to go to live with an aunt married to a diplomat in Bucharest, both to get rid of her Oxfordy manner and to keep up the search for a worldly, upper class husband the one boyfriend she picked at home was not wealthy enough for father Hugh I treasure the visual picture Wallach creates for Bell at this point, which seems far from dry, academic writing complained of by some reviewers As Oxford had been a school for her mind, Romania would be a school for her manners Corseted in whalebone and steel, pulled into an elaborate decollete gown, she learned how to flirt with her ostrich fan, puff on her cigarette and dine on caviar and champagne, to refrain from biting her hands a family habit and from twirling her bangs around her finger and to keep from blurting out everything that came into her head.Various early trips she took, such as to Constantinople and Tehran, helped spur her interest in Middle Eastern cultures and archeology and to speak and read Persian, Arabic, and Turkish She met Lawrence, as well as her future boss in the spy business, Hogarth at a dig in Mesopotamia Her forays into the desert led her to befriend the leaders of diverse Beduoin tribes, sheikhs, and princes of the vast territories Despite her being an unveiled woman with the wrong religion, they received her surprisingly well She somehow charmed them with her boldness and brilliant mind, in effect as an honorary man The exception was her brief imprisonment by a prince of the Rashid clan which controlled the Hejaz region of the future Saudi Arabia flanking the Red Sea In all she made six trips over 12 years and wrote five books ranging among the topics of ancient cultures, architecture, and translations of Persian poetry.Despite the discomforts of brutal sun and chilly nights, fleas, scorpions, snakes, and blowing sand, she truly loved the desert For her it meant escape To those bred under an elaborate social order few such moments of exhilaration can come as that which stands at the threshold of wild travel The gates of the enclosed garden are thrown open, the chain at the entrance to the sanctuary is lowered and, like the man in the fairy story, you feel the bands break that were riveted about your heart.When war finally broke out, Hogarth called her to serve with him at the Arab Bureau in Cairo She worked hard to prove herself through deep knowledge of the geography and people that lay between the Turks and the obvious targets of the Suez Canal or the British oil patch in the Basrah province of Mesopotamia She and Lawrence eventually garnered respect and were able to help shape strategies for supporting the Arab revolt Because all operations involving money and troops in the Middle East were under control of the British Viceroy of India, she got tapped to use her connections to sway their masters in Delhi to their thinking, which was a hard sell due to concerns of the Muslims in India with access to the holy sites in Arabia She also served as a communications liaison with the British intelligence office in London She wrote masterful position papers infused with the history and politics of the Arab peoples After the death of the one serious love of her life at Gallipoli, a married man named Doughy White, she threw herself evenintensely into her work.It took the India Expeditionary Force a long time to take Baghdad A large force was trapped at a bend in the Tigris River, and the Siege of Kut eventually led to the surrender of 13,000 British and Indian troops, over half of whom died in captivity When Baghdad was finally taken in 1917, the Arab Bureau set up shop there under the stewardship of Percy Cox, who was another key mentor for Bell She loved the multicultural mix of this ancient city and made it her home from then until she died in 1926 At the Paris peace conference of 1919, she and Lawrence lobbied hard but unsuccessfully to make Faisal a king of Mesopotamia, but they differed over how fast it would take for Britain to relinquish control While at one point she referred in letters to Lawrence as her beloved boy , at another point she tagged him as an inverted megalomaniac After so much focus on deciding the fate of Germany and Ottoman holdings in Europe, the leaders at the conference postponed final decisions on the Arab lands beyond Central Arabia, instead choosing to leave British and French occupation in place and large areas under their temporary administration It was impossible to sort out the conflicts between the secret Sykes Picot Agreement between England and France in 1916 and the promises of an independent Arabia from Palestine to Persia made to the Hussein family in 1915 At a powwow called by Churchill in Cairo in 1921, Bell and Lawrence had to accept the outcome that the French were to retain control of much of Greater Syria and Lebanon in exchange for British mandates in Palestine, Jordan, and Mesopotamia Abdullah Hussein was made king of Jordan and Faisal, recently deposed in Syria, as titular king of Iraq As oil had been discovered in Mosul, that province with a Kurd majority was added to the new nation Bell essentially became an advisor to Faisal and worked to persuade various leaders to support him in a referendum of support that was held Despite this outcome, the various unruly factions took a long time to see Faisal as anythingthan a British puppet She died before independence was granted to Iraq in 1932 Some say Wallach doesn t take Bell to task for her role in setting artificial boundaries that put together separate antagonistic provinces dominated by Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd peoples, a source of instability and violent contention forever after The Americans had to relearn the same lesson after their toppling of Saddam Hussein s regime in 2003 To me Wallach makes clear that above all else Bell was a British Imperialist On the scheme of Iraq, she was a true believer that an independent Iraq with all three regions was in the best interests of both the Arabs and that of British national interests The British hand on the oil spigot didn t end until they were violently booted out in the late 50 s This book was a great complement to my reading of Korda s wonderful biography Lawrence, Hero I can now see the truth to one characterization of Bell being the brains behind Lawrence s initiatives Bell also appeared for me as a colorful presence in Mary Doria Russell s novel of an Ohio housewife on the scene at the Cairo Conference, Dreamers of the Day Now I have acomplete story This book also putsof a human and cultural perspective on the picture of Middle Eastern history I got from Yergin s massive and masterful history of oil, The Prize Thus, this was a worthy read to help cure a person s ignorance on how the current problems in the Middle East got set in motion But it was most satisfying as a portrait of a strong, ambitious woman and its revelations of the core of her humanity and apparent paradoxes of character I don t know if the other biographies of her are of equal or better caliber or if the movie of her life starring Nicole Kidman has any virtues Churchill, Bell, and Lawrence on a camel break to see the Pyramids at the Cairo Conference in 1921.


  2. Diane Diane says:

    I loved this biography of Gertrude Bell A friend had recommended it knowing how much I like travelogues, history and stories of amazing women, and this book ticks all of those boxes.I listened to this on audio, performed admirably by Jean Gilpen, and I was so fascinated by this queen of the desert that I raced through the book Highly recommended.Opening Passage She was always surrounded by men rich men, powerful men, diplomats, sheikhs, lovers and mentors To picture her you had only to env I loved this biography of Gertrude Bell A friend had recommended it knowing how much I like travelogues, history and stories of amazing women, and this book ticks all of those boxes.I listened to this on audio, performed admirably by Jean Gilpen, and I was so fascinated by this queen of the desert that I raced through the book Highly recommended.Opening Passage She was always surrounded by men rich men, powerful men, diplomats, sheikhs, lovers and mentors To picture her you had only to envision a red haired Victorian woman with ramrod posture, piercing green eyes, a long pointed nose and a fragile figure fashionably dressed, and, whether in London, Cairo, Baghdad or the desert, always at the center of a circle of men So it was only natural that on the drizzly evening of April 4, 1927, less than a year after her death, those who gathered at London s Royal Geographical Society to pay her tribute were mostly men Resplendent in white tie and tails, beribboned medals flanking their chests, they marched through the halls recounting their explorations and hers Gertrude Bell, Gertrude Bell, the name flew around the room She had been, they seemed to agree, the most powerful woman in the British Empire in the years after World War I Hushed voices called her the uncrowned queen of Iraq They whispered that she was the brains behind Lawrence of Arabia, and a few knowingly ventured that she had drawn the lines in the sand for Winston Churchill


  3. Chrissie Chrissie says:

    I really enjoyed this book, even if it was a challenging read Challenging because there was so much information which was new to me I learned about the transformation of Mesopotamia into the new nation of Iraq I learned about the transformation of the Middle East as a result of the First World War I learned about Gertrude Bell I needed the depth of this book to really understand I am glad I read this book rather than what I originally sought Hero The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia I really enjoyed this book, even if it was a challenging read Challenging because there was so much information which was new to me I learned about the transformation of Mesopotamia into the new nation of Iraq I learned about the transformation of the Middle East as a result of the First World War I learned about Gertrude Bell I needed the depth of this book to really understand I am glad I read this book rather than what I originally sought Hero The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, but which I could not get The life of Gertrude Bell was for me eveninteresting than that of the renowned T E Lawrence She deserves muchrecognition than she has been given Although I enjoyed Dreamers of the Day, this book, Desert Queen The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia, gives much, muchThere is no comparison between the two even if I have given both four stars Keep in mind that one is fiction and the other non fiction What makes this book remarkable is that it teaches both history, WW1 and the Middle East, and is a biographical expos on a remarkable woman Gertrude Bell Other books of course discuss people in a historical setting, but here we get great depth into the personality of the woman as well as the mark she left on history I am often drawn to biographical books, but less frequently is the historical aspect as fascinating as the biographical Here is what is important many historical details are given, but how one historical event leads to another is easy to follow History is made simple And then there is Gertrude Bell Not only is what she accomplished in her lifetime fascinating, but also her personality is exceptional She was scathingly blunt She was exceptionally intelligent She had such moral integrity She never gave up until.well I cannot tell you that Other people may not like her I did When things went wrong she gritted her teeth and went on She was both feminine and soft and strong as steel And yet with her father she was always a child, even at fifty She wanted a husband and children and yet never married She was a woman of her time, the Victorian age, but repeatedly defied social restrictions her closest friends were all men She was British through and through, but her real home was in the East Iraq She was certainly a queen of the desert She was a woman of contradictions After reading this book I know who she was, not just what she accomplished I had difficulty with the Arabian names, but that is because I was listening to an audiobook The narrator, Jean Gilpin, must be complimented in always reading slowly there is a lot to absorb Gilpin s reading is steady and unhurried when covering historical themes You also hear in the narrator s voice different inflections when reading Gertrude s sentimental, heartfelt letters to her father or lovers and her critical, blunt retorts to less favored acquaintances The reading follows the lines of the author well, only occasionally over dramatizing the lines.I wondered sometimes if what we were being told was favorably biased in Gertrude s favor Quotes from her letters are numerous We areoften given her thoughts, rather than opposing views Much of the book feels in this way almost autobiographical, and how balanced is that I believe this is why I found the book short of amazing and why I gave it four rather than five stars.If you enjoy biographies of historical figures, this is a must read I highly recommend it


  4. Madeline Madeline says:

    Great persons, like great empires, leave their mark on history There s a photo in this book of the 1921 Cairo Conference, called by Winston Churchill to figure out what to do with the newly independent Arabia, and of the forty delegates pictured, there is one woman Gertrude Bell She was a colleague of Winston Churchill and TE Lawrence, and a close personal adviser to King Faisel better known as Alec Guiness in Lawrence of Arabia, a four hour yawnfest of a movie that features Gertrude Bell e Great persons, like great empires, leave their mark on history There s a photo in this book of the 1921 Cairo Conference, called by Winston Churchill to figure out what to do with the newly independent Arabia, and of the forty delegates pictured, there is one woman Gertrude Bell She was a colleague of Winston Churchill and TE Lawrence, and a close personal adviser to King Faisel better known as Alec Guiness in Lawrence of Arabia, a four hour yawnfest of a movie that features Gertrude Bell exactly zero times How does a woman born in 1868 end up traveling to parts of the Middle East that have never been explored by white men before, become a vital part of the British government in Arabia, and create the borders of modern day Iraq The short answer is with a hell of a lot of determination, curiosity, spirit, and to be fair Daddy s money But mostly the first three, because damn this lady was impressive.Gertrude Bell, after attending Oxford and being one of the few women to do so deciding that traveling would befun than getting married, so she set off for the Middle East and began essentially wandering around waiting to run into something cool This is the sort of person Gertrude Bell was when her guides told her, We can t go east, there s a super scary warlord who lives there and we should avoid his land she replied, East it is, then and then the next thing you know she and the warlord would be having tea and becoming friends This ability of Bell s to wander wherever the hell she felt like, meeting the locals on her way, came in handy when the British government started messing in Middle Eastern politics in the early 1900 s They needed someone who knew the landscape and the locals, and there was actually only one person who fit the bill So Gertrude Bell became the Oriental Secretary in Iraq, and ended up helping to create the modern Middle East and the Iraq Museum did I mention she dabbled in archaeology and by dabbled I mean discovered and documented ruins and published several books and articles All of this, despite the fact that she never had any real interest in politics As she wrote to a friend, I shan t go on running the affairs of Mesopatamiabut for the moment there wasn t anyone else to do it and as there wasn t a second to lose I just upped and did it Wallach s account of Bell s life is fascinating, well researched and because Bell wrote a shit ton of letters and diaries in her lifetime very thorough and detailed In addition to being a complex portrait of a woman who is way less well known than she deserves to be, Wallach s book also serves as a good introduction to the clusterfuck that is the modern day Middle East While reading about the British government s attempts to set up a stable government in Iraq, it was downright eerie to spot the modern parallels to current American affairs in the region While Gertrude and John Van Ess discussed the fate of Iraq, the country was also the topic at Whitehall A strong contingent felt that Mesopotamia had already cost Britain too much money and too many lives there were 17,000 British and 44,000 Indian troops in Iraq, and combined with the 23,000 troops in Palestine it was costing England 35.5 million pounds a year to keep the garrisons in place , but few could deny Mesopotamia s importance as a future source of oil Mark Twain was right history doesn t repeat itself, but it rhymes.The book is exciting on every page, with political intrigue, feuding desert tribes, romance, and entire nations being formed through the influence of a handful of people In fact, the story is so engrossing that it s easy to miss the underlying sadness of the book Gertrude Bell s life may have been exciting, and she may have been a great historical figure, but she herself was actually a profoundly depressing person She had no children and never married, and not by choice her first love was rejected by her family for being middle class, her second romantic interest was a already married and b killed in World War I, and when she fell in love a third time, the man refused to marry her She had many work colleagues but very few friends, owing to her caustic personality in her defense, being a single woman who traveled the desert by herself and made her own way in the world leaves one with very few fucks to give , and often wrote in her letters about how lonely she was Gertrude doesn t even come across as a very nice person in this book it s made pretty clear that she was only able to accomplish all of her great feats because she was a rich girl with nothing better to do who traveled the world on her father s dime, and her attitude towards Middle Eastern locals can be optimistically described as patronizing She once describes Arabs as being like very old children and believes that they aren t capable of governing themselves Although she studied Arabic and Turkish for hours a day, she was an atheist who had no interest in learning about Islam, and didn t see any reason to visit the Arab women in their harems luckily she changed her tune towards the end of her life, becominginterested in harem life and even admitting that the Arabs are better off running their own government Most damning, Gertrude Bell was an anti suffrage supporter You read that right a woman who attended Oxford in the 1800s, published books and articles, and was a vital political asset in the Middle East believed that women shouldn t have the right to vote If I were to meet Gertrude Bell in real life, I m sure I would dislike her She was proud, demanding, stubborn, hypocritical, and dismissive But her life is a fascinating one, and she deserves muchcredit than the world has given her


  5. Jill Hutchinson Jill Hutchinson says:

    This is a hard book to review because there are so many conflicting issues that the reader has to pick out the positives from the negatives to arrive at a rating.The positives Gertrude Bell was an amazing woman who explored the Middle East and went where no British man had ever gone, let alone a woman She was brave bordering on foolhardiness but got away with it through sheer power of personality and knowledge of the language Although she started her treks as an archeologist, she soon became This is a hard book to review because there are so many conflicting issues that the reader has to pick out the positives from the negatives to arrive at a rating.The positives Gertrude Bell was an amazing woman who explored the Middle East and went where no British man had ever gone, let alone a woman She was brave bordering on foolhardiness but got away with it through sheer power of personality and knowledge of the language Although she started her treks as an archeologist, she soon became involved in the desire for autonomy of the countries divided by the Versailles Treaty and the government mandates of England and France She became, because of her overwhelming personality, a confidant of many of the highly placed sheiks and tribal leaders and her influence was quite powerful The Arabs loved her, the British hated her with some exceptions but she tried to balance the negotiations in favor of the Arabs And her success was so surprising that she became a mole for the British and worked closely with T.E Lawrence Lawrence of Arabia.Negatives I couldn t stand her She thought Arabian women were of the lowest caste and tried to school them in the ways of the British..dress, conversation, and the all important ceremony of tea drinking She was quoted as saying about King Faisal he has the fatal defects of the Oriental a term used at that time for residents of the Middle East lack of moral courage and lack of intellectual poise the latter, I suppose a necessary corollary of ignorance For an individual who purported to love the Arabic people, these actions seem to show something a little different She always had to be right, was always in charge, and quite sharp tongued which were the things that caused her own people, the British, to dislike her intensely.So, what is the answer to how to rate this book It is a beautifully told tale and should not be rated on the fact that the main character was a bit of a bitch A good read for those who are interested in the problems of the Middle East which still exist today


  6. HBalikov HBalikov says:

    I am sure that there are other biographies of Bell that skip right to her involvement in Mesopotamia, but I appreciated the time Wallach gives to the younger Gertrude Bell Bell was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, and granddaughter of the man who brought modern iron smelting to Newcastle She was deprived of her mother early in life, but not deprived of much else, unless you feel that her lack of a husband was a major catastrophe She was not, at her core, rebellious, but she was ad I am sure that there are other biographies of Bell that skip right to her involvement in Mesopotamia, but I appreciated the time Wallach gives to the younger Gertrude Bell Bell was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, and granddaughter of the man who brought modern iron smelting to Newcastle She was deprived of her mother early in life, but not deprived of much else, unless you feel that her lack of a husband was a major catastrophe She was not, at her core, rebellious, but she was adventurous in the extreme One of the most interesting elements of her liberation was her opposition to universal women s suffrage.She was not the only Westerner intent on immersing herself himself in the world of the Arabs, but she was the only woman to successfully do so Her initial adventures in exploring, mapping and excavating with scholarly intentions made it almost necessary for British intelligence to recruit her during World War I Not only were her good relationships with Arab leaders important, but her intelligent insights proved critical to the successful outcome One can argue that some of both the credit and blame for almost 100 years of subsequent disputes can be laid to her involvement in creating the borders of those Middle Eastern countries But before she dedicated herself to that task she prepared herself in many ways She learned something of the many languages of this region To her French, Italian and German she added Persian, Turkish, and last, but most difficult Arabic She studied antiquities and archaeology She tested herself physically in many ways but neverso than her times in the Alps She climbed glaciers and peaks with two local expert guides They often took risky assaults never before attempted On one of those, the Finsteraarhorn, they tumbled down a chimney of ice in the midst of a storm and were marooned For sixteen hours, from four A.M until eight the next evening they were on the ar te they carried nothing to drink but two tablespoons of brandy and a mouthful of wine, and the only food they had was what was left in their knapsacks It snowed all day the cold was bitter, the snow had turned to rain and their clothing was soaked When they finally made it back to their base one of the men said, had she not been full of courage and determination, we must have perished He went on to say that no one man or woman equaled her in coolness, bravery and judgment These characteristics would serve her well in her many encounters with armed conflict, tribal chiefs and desert deprivations.She entered Jerusalem for the first time just before the Twentieth Century began It was the first of many trips Wallach appears to have had carte blanche access to family diaries and to Bell s correspondence This may be why she can provide extraordinary context for the basic facts of Bell s trips However, I have no doubt that this is supplemented both by other research and her imagination Let me provide a few illustrations Her descriptions of London, Istanbul and other cities are quite detailed So are her accounts of alpine crevasses and the myriad of desert environments W ith only a jacket to cover her blouse and a long skirt, and a felt hat on her head she hurried along the street to see Sheikh Muhammad Bassam he could help her lay out a path in the shifting Arabian sands Almost everything she wanted food, clothing, even camels was available in the covered bazaar In a new Parisian suit, and with the amiable Fattuh at her side, she tramped through the dirty passagways, brush past pasha in gold embroidered robes sheikhs I gilt edged cloaks Turks covered in long silk coats, holding rosaries in their hands Jews with long beards, their heads in turbans, their pants in Turkish style Armenians and Greeks in colorfully embroidered tunics old men proudly wearing green turbans that announced that they had made the pilgrimage to Mecca Bedouin, just in from the desert, in their striped blue abbas and kefeeyahs their women tattooed in indigo and veiled in dark blue cloth and native boys hardly wearing anything at all She stepped carefully away from the piles of dung left by camels and mules parading through the labyrinth of alleys She paid a visit to her friend the red bearded Bahai, who owned a tea shop, and he welcomed her as always with a cup of sweet Persian blend Your Excellency is known to us, he had told her years before when she first stopped in When she had reached for her money he said, For you there is never anything to pay Her long treks into the vast deserts of Arabia, Syria and Iraq were at great risk Risk of starvation, risk of calamity, risk of robbery and risk of imprisonment With a changing group of servants, camel drivers and guards, she was always at the mercy of the various tribes But she must have been a provocative and attractive sight for each sheikh She had no need of a translator Smoking tobacco with one, taking bitter tiny cups of coffee with another, eating lamb and rice with her fingers with a third and not refusing the delicacy of a sheep s eyeball if offered , Bell paid attention to and gained friendship from the etiquette that is so fundamental to any relationship in this region Bell was aware of the many facets of her being in that part of the world She was content to be with them, sitting with their sheikhs, drinking their coffee around their fire, although she remembered what one of her rafiqs had said around just such a campfire In all the years when we come to this place we shall say Here we came with her, here she camped It will be a thing to talk of, your ghazai We shall be asked for news of it, and we shall speak of it, and tell how you came It made her anxious to think what they would say They will judge my whole race by me, she reckoned The post war debates about what was to become of the former Ottoman Empire territories went on for a long time In essence, the Brits wanted the natural resources of the area between Turkey and Egypt called mostly Mesopotamia but they understood how costly that would be in terms of troops and support to the newly created governments There were a number of choices Britain could just divide up the territories with France They could support a native government their term , or they could get out completely and negotiate for oil and mineral rights Bell argued for indigenous governments with British support a British decision to withdraw from Mesopotamia might lead to disaster If we leave this country to go to the dogs it will mean we shall have to reconsider our who position in Asia If Mesopotamia goes, Persia goes inevitably, and then India And the place which we leave empty will be occupied by seven devils a good deal worse than any which existed before we came Bell s domino theory argued that not being engaged in Mesopotamia would lead inevitably to the end of the British Empire By 1920, Britain and France came to an agreement Arabia would remain as it was, an independent peninsula, though it would be guided by the British Syria, including Lebanon, would be mandated to France Mesopotamia including Palestine would be mandated to Britain in both cases until such time as they could stand on their own They two powers would share in the exploration and development of petroleum They must have thought they were paying attention to George Santayana s admonition Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it But it certainly looks inevitable from the perspective of the 21st Century.This book could be better, but not by making it generally tighter orfocused on the critical years of Middle East negotiation Wallach is quite imaginative in some of the supposed dialogue between Bell and others from her British friends to her encounters in the desert and the Alps We have no idea how much of the source of this was accurate or later created Bell is certainly of those classic self made individuals who can be said to have changed history That she may be unique in the 19th Century isdue to her gender than to anything in her character If you tend to celebrate that, then you will probably enjoy this biography about the only woman who can be said to have made a major contribution to the Middle East we know today This is certainly a very comprehensive view of Bell and one that provides a firm point for stepping off into a study of the Middle East, or the British movement for women s rights, or the politics of this period


  7. Kate Kate says:

    My feelings about this book are a bit muddled for several reasons 1 I eat up memoirs and historical accounts, but the writing here is a bit contrived at times, thick i.e dull , and perhaps a bit biased I enjoy a challenging read, but it wasn t always challenging for the right reasons.2 I was really looking forward to reading about this fiercely independent, intelligent, and visionary woman who made her own place in the world While all of this is true and I respect it, I deeply question her My feelings about this book are a bit muddled for several reasons 1 I eat up memoirs and historical accounts, but the writing here is a bit contrived at times, thick i.e dull , and perhaps a bit biased I enjoy a challenging read, but it wasn t always challenging for the right reasons.2 I was really looking forward to reading about this fiercely independent, intelligent, and visionary woman who made her own place in the world While all of this is true and I respect it, I deeply question her Britain s motives for helping the Iraqi people and can t exactly relate to her as I thought I would because she sometimes comes off as too rich, spoiled, or severely egotistical.3 I loved learningabout the tribes that roamed Persia and Mesopotamia and the formation of Iraq You can tell the author did some really great research just as Bell did , even though much of the issues and facts are written from a flawed early 19th Century perspective Of course, this is the world of Gertrude Bell herself..i just thought the reader would benefit from somehow incorporating a fresher contemporary perspective that is less one sided.4 The author does cover some of Gertrude Bell s failings weaknesses I understand that one might not want to spend the time writing a biography of someone unless they really looked up to them, but I felt that these failings weaknesses could have been shown withhonesty.5 Most of my complaints are balanced by the fact that the author really has outdone herself with her program Seeds of Peace that promotes understanding and growth among the youth of fueding groups in the middle east It s some outstanding stuff and shows the author s passions and concerns for what they truely are.All in all, I m glad I read this I learned a lot and would certainly recommend it to others interested in the history of the area, but would urge that the reader take it with a bit of salt If ever get the nerve up again, I d consider reading some of the other biographies that exist on Bell for comparison and definitely some histories on the area from an arab perspective.One other thing I might note As I was finishing this book in an airport over Christmas, I was able to discuss it with a very intelligent Iraqi woman sitting in back of me She had heard me explaining the book to the person with me and even though I normally do not like engaging in airport conversation with strangers, I m so glad i did because i learned a lot from her about what the war is like on the ground in Iraq and her first hand understanding of her people and the middle east I never imagined what it would be like to have to evacuate my own home because there was a ticking bomb in the back yard and I hope she will never have to againwhoever you are, thank you for sharing your life with me It is a wonderful and hopeful thing to be able to meet the individual faces behind an ugly war and to be able to share a mutual understanding


  8. Barbara Barbara says:

    It s popular these days to blame Gertrude Bell for arbitrarily carving up the tribal Middle East into countries Read this book She d be spinning in her grave if she could see what Iraq has come to She fought hard for Arabs of the Iraq region to govern themselves rather than become servants of the British Empire the British wanted that oil too This book is very detailed a fascinating overview of the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.


  9. Sarah Sarah says:

    i read this book in high school and really enjoyed it About 2 years later, I met the author at a graduation ceremony and got to talk to her dorkily not a word, i know asked her to sign the book for me, which she did Honestly, evenamazing than this book is the program the author started in Maine, called, Seeds of Peace a summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian high school students to have fun and get to know each other Ms Wallach is currently president of Seeds of Peace, a confl i read this book in high school and really enjoyed it About 2 years later, I met the author at a graduation ceremony and got to talk to her dorkily not a word, i know asked her to sign the book for me, which she did Honestly, evenamazing than this book is the program the author started in Maine, called, Seeds of Peace a summer camp for Israeli and Palestinian high school students to have fun and get to know each other Ms Wallach is currently president of Seeds of Peace, a conflict resolution program which brings together teenagers from the Middle East India, Pakistan and Afghanistan the Balkans and Greece, Turkey and divided Cyprus The organization has a year round program that includes a summer camp in Maine, a Center for Coexistence in Jerusalem, annual conferences and an educational arm that helps Seeds alumni attend college in the U.S More than 2,500 participants have participated in a three week session at the camp in Maine and then returned to their regions for further workshops, meetings and conflict resolution programs


  10. Corinna Corinna says:

    Overall, Desert Queen was a good detailing of a life that has often been overlooked I think the earlier portion would have benefitedfrom hearingof Gertrude s own voice via her letters I quickly grew bored of hearing her meetings with sheikhs and other prominent figures consisting of a hot cup of Turkish coffee and some meat with rice The constant reminders of who Fattuh was also made me a little irritated got it, he s her loyal Armenian servant this in conjunction with the lack Overall, Desert Queen was a good detailing of a life that has often been overlooked I think the earlier portion would have benefitedfrom hearingof Gertrude s own voice via her letters I quickly grew bored of hearing her meetings with sheikhs and other prominent figures consisting of a hot cup of Turkish coffee and some meat with rice The constant reminders of who Fattuh was also made me a little irritated got it, he s her loyal Armenian servant this in conjunction with the lack of explaining in depth who other figures were who would figure in the birth of Iraq was kind of off putting Even though Wallach has a romanticized view of Bell throughout much of the biography, I came away not liking the Khatun at all She was very self involved and self aggrandizing even when her father tells her of the family s declining fortune, she still writes to her step mother for three pairs of mules from a French cobbler and rejoices that she only went 560 pounds over her budget this year she even holds up this fact for Hugh her father to approve She was very much invested in the idea of being a Person and anyone who didn t agree with her was branded foolish or unenlightened Bell was the brains behind the birth of the first Arab nation Iraq and the person we can blame our current troubles on By insisting the boundaries envelop Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis and appointing forcing upon the people,like a foreigner Hejazi, not Iraqi , Bell constructed the perfect little Mandate and quickly became irrelevant when it started to fall apart The reason I don t feel much sympathy for Bell doesn t come from Wallach s portrayal of her, but from the fact that she s not someone I could sympathize with Ever