« Stuff You Missed in History Class

SYMHC Classics: Gertrude Bell, The Uncrowned Queen of Iraq

2018-07-14 | 🔗

This classic revisits an episode from Sarah and Deblina, talking about Gertrude Bell, the first woman to graduate with a First in Modern History from Oxford. Instead of marrying young, she went to Persia. Inspired, she traveled across the Middle East on numerous exploratory treks. But would it last in a time of war?

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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he came out in November of twenty twelve featuring past hosts Sarah and doubly now. Also if you have not checked out our new daily podcast this day in history class. Today's episode of that show is also about Gertrude Bell. You can hear a much quicker look at her life over there as well, work into stuff. You missed in history class, from how support dot com. yeah. alone. Welcome to the pod, cast, I'm going to check the boarding and unfair it out, and if you listen to this progress has regularly you know we ve covered our share of explorers and adventure travellers. People like France, Stark who travelled into uncharted territory with seemingly little regard for their own safety and bring back useful info to enlighten those of us who are less ambitious, to say the least yeah I haven't made any desert tracks lately
You are in particular very fond of explorer stories, though I do really love explorer stories and its end. Things some times when you, when you do subjects who were kind of in low in the same vein, to see what they have in common with each other in France start. You just mentioned her. She actually has a lot in common with the subject of today's pipe cast his Gertrude Bell, especially in terms of where they travelled specifically, which was the Middle EAST, and you might find few other little parallels throughout their stories to. However, unlike stark bells involvement and area she explored went far beyond documenting them and publishing works about them. Bell also did archaeological work and their ban was a mountain climber too, but she's best known for loftier sort of thing working with the british government. She got involved in Middle EAST politics, pitched in on some spy work and is largely credited with the founding of modern Iraq. It said that at
One time she was the most powerful woman and the british empire. So that really peaked our curiosity and we wanted to find out how did this well heeled English Gal, otherwise expected to become a proper, victorian lady get to go How much were no lady has gone before and have the sort of influence, but none other had had, and so that's what we're going to look into a little bit today. The answer seems to lie and how she started out. She was born Gertrude, Margaret Lewis, and Bell on July 14th, one thousand eight hundred and sixty eight in a really well to do family according to an article in Smithsonian by JANET Wallach. Her family friends included people like Henry James and John singer. Sargent her father was named Isaac, Levin Bell was a prominent industrialist and, as such, he had a lot
important connections and because of those connections, he was able to get Gertrude into Oxford at a time when not very many young women attended in she excelled there in eighteen. Eighty seven, she became the first woman to graduate from there with a first in modern history, which was the universities highest honour in modern history. Even at that age, though, she wasn't shy about voicing her opinions. Wallack writes that she shocked professors by challenging their ideas, maybe because she was so opinionated an outspoken, though she didn't have a lot of luck in the love department around this time around the time she finish school, which made
stand out from other women around her age, because most women married around this time, but because of her outspokenness as we said, because she was sort of snobbish almost about her intelligence, she had a hard time finding suitor. So at age, twenty she was sent off to stay with an aunt and uncle in Romania. Her uncle was a british ambassador there and it was in the hopes that she would find a husband, Agatha, Oxford guys just couldn't handle Gertrude right, so she didn't find any suitors and in her time in Romania, but she did realised that she just love to travel and so in eighteen, eighty two she arranged a visit to Tehran in modern day IRAN. It was Persia the time where Her uncle frank, lawful, was british Minister and its there that she got her very first glimpse of the desert and she just loved what she saw. This reminded me a little bit of Louise Boyd, getting her first glimpse of ice each city each explore
their own passion that, according to an article by carry Alice in history today and a piece about bell and all things considered in her first letter home, she wrote quote: oh Does it amounts to IRAN miles and miles of it with nothing? Nothing growing ring in with bleak bear mountain snow, crowned inferred with the deep courses of torrents and never knew what desert was till. I came here. It is a very wonderful thing to see so I mean that speaks clearly how enchanted she was by something so different from which was used to write. She was smitten with this area of the world, but while she was an persia, she also became smitten with something
else, a guy, a young british diplomat named Henry, Could Dugan according to walks. Article Bell described him, as quote a very thin agreeable, intelligent, a great tennis player. I like him immensely though he apparently liked her too, and they spent a lot of time together, exploring the desert going on picnics reading poetry, but there was one problem about their relationship continuing any further, and that was that Henry was very poor and again according to Wall Ex article
Beth Father refuse to let them get married at all. He didn't think that could Dugan earned enough to support his daughter in the manner in which she had become accustomed to plus Henry had a gambling habit, and so Bell went home to England to try to convince her father in person that this was the guy for her, but she was not successful and just a few months after she returned home, she got word from Persia that could Dugan had fallen into an icy river while fishing and had died of pneumonia, and she was just completely. heart, broken and devastated, to hear about the so Bell spent the next ten years or so in England. Writing, including some writings bout, her experiences and Persia, and she also traveled around Europe. Traveled to France, ITALY and Germany- and this is also around the time-
in the late eighteen, ninety, sir, so that she started to earn her chops as a climber by climbing unexplored peaks in the Alps walks article recounts, one particularly heroin, experienced Bell had in the Alps in which she and her guides were trapped by an avalanche. Thunder storm and blinding snow, any one of which would have been enough to deter me that at that all sounds bad and they were basically huddled all rope together in a crack between some rocks on a peak for more than a day and Bell leader said that she thought quote: it was on the cards. We should not get down alive, but she kept her cool and they did make it down. Really something she was known for two. As a climber later, one of her guide said that out of all the amateur climbers that he'd worked with, including males as well as females
No one could rival bell in terms of Quot coolness, bravery and judgment, and I made that seems like something that served her well later in her career to not just on the mountain yet- and I just looked a picture her doing this cuddling in between the crack in the rock braving out the storm right, and even what do you know what she might have looked like at the time, because there weren't any dedicated climbing clothes for women at this time, at least when she started out climate and Bell was doing her climbing a skirt I mean she wasn't very decked out an hour, I gear, whatever that we would expect today, obviously holler tack. Nothing like that. He has a skirt would make things considerably more difficult. It would seem that
it didn't, it didn't stop, or I mean none of that really stopped her and she decided that she wanted to start racking up some climbing accomplishments to like some real goal. She wanted to be the first person to climb all the peaks of the angle Herner range in the Swiss Alps and actually accomplish that goal in one thousand nine hundred and one one of the mountains Gertrude Spitzer was named after This episode of stuff, you missed in history classes, brought to you by W W previously wait waters. They don't know that most people have already given up on their resolutions. Thirteen days and the new year, I'm really proud to say it's not me does not have to be you either. I for Joint W W, because I really wanted a plan that was going to encourage me to make healthier eating choices and W w format
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heard about the tribes that were roaming around the desert with her new know how she didn't waste any time in exploring she road from Jerusalem Jericho to Damascus and according to MRS article, one of her most notable early adventures involve dressing like a bedouin man and writing about a hundred miles. North EAST Jerusalem, in search of the drew's, which was a secretive militant Muslim sacked. That was at odds with the ruling Ottoman Turks. And surprisingly, she got along quite well with the truth when she found them Ellis rights that the territory the Jews were living in was at the time uncharted by westerners but I'll manage to evade the turkish authorities. This part reminds me of Freya stark a little bit and finally get to the Jebel Druze Mountains, where she just charmed the Druze King entirely they ate together. They talked together and since Bell had become fluent in Arabic, this was something she could really really do with it,
they even became friends and the king apparently asked someone later referring to her. Have you seen a queen travelling, so she made an impression yeah. It was apparently good question to ask because Bell did spend the next few years time going around the Middle EAST studying roam the roman and byzantine ruins there, and also study the drew's and various bedouin tribes more in depth, She learned a lot about the Arabs and about the Ottoman Empire on her journeys, and she took copious notes. While she was doing that a lot of her observations made it into her one thousand nine hundred and seven book the desert and the stone, and it also seems that she impressed more than just the druze king. According to Wallach, the Arabs Pronounced Bell quote a daughter of the desert and made her a quote honorary man, but in addition to rocking up these great titles and making all these friends, she was really a learning her future trade
until we mentioned her studying the roman and byzantine ruins, which is significant because its during these years that I started getting more and more involved in archaeology. She studied, under the french archaeologist Solomon right back in the early nineties, hundreds and in March of nineteen of seven. She went to Turkey to work with William Ramsay on some excavations there and the work they did actually resulted in a joint publication in nineteen o nine book called a thousand and one churches which, according to Ellis, really solidified Bell standing as a quote, furious archaeologists though she is not a lady explorer anymore she's. Somebody is out there. Doing real work with well respected archaeologists and the coming well respected in her own right in January of one thousand nine hundred and nine Gertrude set out for Mesopotamia, which included what is today, Iraq, as well as Syria, Turkey and IRAN. Her goal was to map out uncharted territory.
So while it outlines a few of the things that Bell took along for the ride- and I just have to mention Thus, we lead so tired where we're explorer yeah, there's so much about the time you really does and so much about what's important to the person. I think so so we'll just a quote this from from, while its work, she says her trunks packed with pistols, her saddle bags crammed with books. She accompanied by an entourage of male servants, baggage animals, horses and a plethora of equipment, cameras, tens of folding bed and a canvas bath mosquito netting rugs provisions for a month, quinine camphor cigarettes and entire set of Wedgwood China Crystal and silver for, proper dining and thus format me so much of the champagne safari that was before you're a co host, but before my time, the similar packing less bringing being that
I mean she may not have had the hour. I gear for her climbing in and special high tech fabric fur desert where, but she wasn't dining with like ten plates either wish. You know she was so with all of this equipment. With all of these luxuries prepared, she set off on a journey that lasted about seven month and the land she travelled across was so brutally dry that her party often how to stop and seek refuge with local tribes and as their gas. Sometimes they would eat things that may be they weren't expecting to see on their wedgwood. China really better coffee out of move cups, and if they had Wedgwood comes, whose mission to sheep thy than their plates things that were probably welcome. If they hurt looking for refuge in the in the desert, but also real travellers stuff in March, she came.
Cross an amazing and, as yet undocumented, ruin a sixth century stone and would Castle known to Arabs as LUCA dear. I hope I'm saying that correctly. I'm not sure spent hours and hours painstakingly photographing, measuring and sketchy means ruin. She even got down on the ground in her petticoat to make sure that she was taking very precise measurements and she was taking this so seriously, because since the ruins hadn't been documented before, if she were the one to come out with this discovery and have it so documented and write about it first, it would be this huge Big win for her, something that would establish her archaeological reputation beyond a shadow of a doubt. This episode of stuff you missed in history class, is brought to you by Norton, three hundred and sixty with Lifelock, let's just say, you're shopping online
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Slash history. That's Norton dot com, slash history for twenty five percent off. She didn't exactly rush off quite yet there with her finding. She went on to me line and wrote about Babylon thing, it was quote the most extraordinary place. I have seldom felt the ancient world comes a close from their. She went on to Baghdad, which was about five hundred miles from her starting point. Just give you a sense of how far she roamed on this on this trip there she met the and achieve which was the city's one of the most important issue
black figures in the city who rarely spoke to women and again just sort of like the the king of the drew. Is she really charmed this guy? He ended up inviting her to meet his family so from Baghdad. She went on to Constantinople and that's where she got some really bad news. She found that a french archaeologists had scooped her on the Oka Dear find, and she was upset about this, but because she had at least spend so much time documenting it in the form of drawings Her name was at least can be associated with the discovery the french archaeologist had written about it first, but she had all of this information. All these pictures to really back up the find. Just eighteen months later back to the desert again. She wanted to visit a friend and David Hogarth, who is working on an excavation in the ancient city of cork Amish for the British Museum when she got there, though Hogarth had left and has to assistance to Young
British archaeologists were waiting for her. Instead, they were Campbell Thompson and a twenty three year old, graduate student named Thomas Edward Lawrence and that name may sound kind of familiar to you and that's because it's the same Lawrence that will later be known as Lawrence of Arabia, and these guys were eager to impress Bell with the work they have done It started out rocky for them, though. According to Ellis Bell took a look at their excavation. and immediately called their methods, quote prehistoric. She then proceeded to tell them how a dig should be done, but Benchley won her over with their conversation in which they showed off substantial local knowledge, something that always appealed to Bell and knowledge of architecture. Among other things, she ended up. Calling Lawrence quote an interesting boy. He is going to make a traveller very on point Gertrude distant interesting side. Now, because of this,
group. They sort of seem like an odd couple down there or an odd group of three, but apparently the local, who didn't know what to think about a woman travelling alone. Like Gertrude Bell, often and and knowing that Lawrence was a bachelor originally thought that Bell had arrived to be his right, even though she was at this point something like twice his age. It just seemed like the most logical solution, turn to explore this party Sherwin. I also interesting to note about this independent lady travelling alone. She'd been active in the anti suffrage back home in early nineteen hundreds, she was actually the honorary secretary of the women's Anti Suffrage league according to Allison. Apparently she leave that she was the equal of any man but didn't think the same was true of all women. Anyway, we just
that was worth mentioned for those who look up to her as a feminist role model. It's not totally black and white. Here you can't expect her to to be the fact role model, as well as with any historical figure figure of any kind but as will learn in the second part of this podcast, there were others who also thought that Bell was a singular kind of lady and allowed her to be part of what was perhaps the ultimate all boys club right. The military. at a time when it really mattered to because in the next part of this podcast we're about to go to war, World WAR one and talk about those political influence in the Middle EAST, the stuff that she's probably best known for is a little bit of romance in there too. There, because we haven't talked about Gertrude Second notable love affair. I will also talk a bit about how she made a lasting impression on iraqi culture, so all sorts of things to come in
and part of this Gertrude Bell story. Thank you! So much for joining us where this Saturday classic since this is out of the archives you heard an email address or a facebook url or something similar during the course of the show that may be obsolete now. So here is our current contact information. We are at history podcast at Helstone dot com and then we're at missed in history all over social media. That is our name on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram. They again for listening for more on this and thousands of other topics visit how stuff works, dot, com, this episode, stuff you miss than history classes, brought to you by W W formerly wait. Watchers did you know that most people have already given up on their resolutions, thirteen days and the new year? I am proud to say that is not me doesn't have to be you either great thing,
out. The new my deputy we programme is that it really encourage you to stick with it. It is their most groundbreaking and customize proven wait lost land because its Taylor, just to you, which makes it easier to keep up with a stick to join W W to get matched with your very own. Customized proven weight loss plan had on overdue Debbie Debbie dot com. That's w w dot com to joint Debbie Debbie today, with a limited time, offer