01 Mar 2016 : Vicky Manolopoulou - The extraordinary Gertrude Bell
Being born to a wealthy industrial family in North East England in 1868, Gertrude had the benefit of an excellent education and politically aware parents who introduced her both to diplomatic circles and to travel. By 1900 Gertrude had begun to explore independently in the Middle East and spent much of the period up to the First World War journeying through the lands of the Ottoman Empire in search of archaeological sites.
The places she visited and the letters and diaries she wrote are documented in Newcastle University’s Gertrude Bell Archive bequeathed to the university after her death in Baghdad in 1926. A century ago and decade before her death in March 1916, Gertrude was in Mesopotamia sent by the British to work for military intelligence, she remained there for most of the rest of her life. The outbreak of World War I offered Bell new opportunities to have considerable agency and she ensured that she was invaluable to the British operation in what was, after the war, to become the British mandate of Mesopotamia and then Iraq. In the aftermath of World War I Bell continued to serve the British administration. She was instrumental in the coronation of Iraq’s first monarch in 1921, as well as in writing the antiquities legislation for Iraq and founding its first museum. This talk will focus on Bell and her life. It will make use of the photographs from the Gertrude Bell archive to tell her story and to explore the significance of this extraordinary woman.
From 30 January – 3 May 2016 there will be a major exhibition in Newcastle to explore the life of Gertrude Bell.