Monday, January 17, 2011

Open Access Archives: Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell Archive, Newcastle University Library
Having most relevance for research in Archaeology, History, Politics and Travel, the books and papers of Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) were given to Newcastle University Library by Gertrude's half-sister, Lady Richmond, although part of the Doughty-Wylie correspondence came from St. Anthony's College, Oxford. They are under the care of the Special Collections department, which can be contacted at:

The Gertrude Bell Collection comprises books on Arabic and Persian languages and on the histories of Arabia, and the Near and Middle East which were formerly part of Gertrude's working library. These can be found in the Library's online catalogue.
The Papers
The Gertrude Bell Papers comprise Gertrude's personal correspondence, diaries and miscellaneous items, such as Review of the Civil Administration of Mesopotamia (1920), notebooks, obituaries, lecture notes and miscellaneous reports, memoranda and cuttings. Circa. 1,600 letters and diaries covering the years 1877-1879 and 1893-1900 (with some gaps reflecting where we do not have the hard-copy diary) can be found transcribed on this website, along with c.7,000 of her archaeological and travel photographs. (The photographic portion of the Gertrude Bell archive is administered by the School of Historical Studies.) Neither letters to and from army officer Charles Doughty-Wylie (written 1913-1915) nor any of the Miscellaneous materials have been transcribed although a handlist to the Miscellaneous part of the collection is available

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926)
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was born into a wealthy family at Washington New Hall in what was then County Durham. Initially home-schooled, she then attended school in London and graduated with a first-class degree in Modern History from Oxford University. Thereafter she travelled in Europe and also spent several months in Bucharest and in Tehran. Her travels continued with two round-the-world trips: one in 1897-1898 and one in 1902-1903.

From the turn of the century, Gertrude developed a love of the Arab peoples - she learned their languages, investigated their archaeological sites and travelled deep into the desert. This intimate knowledge of the country and its tribes made her a target of British Intelligence recruitment during the First World War. At the end of the war, Gertrude focussed on the future of Mesopotamia and was to become a powerful force in Iraqi politics, becoming a kingmaker when her preferred choice, Faisal (son of Husain, the Sharif of Mecca and King of the Hijaz) was crowned King of the state of Iraq in August 1921.

Gertrude's first love remained archaeology and, as Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq, she established the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. Her 1905 expedition through the Syrian Desert to Asia Minor was published as The Desert and the Sown and her study, in 1907, of Binbirkilise on the Kara Dag mountain was published as The Thousand and One Churches and remains the standard work on early Byzantine architecture in Anatolia.

You might also find T. E. Lawrence Studies interesting.

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