Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
- Liora Lukitz
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (1868–1926)
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian (1868–1926), traveller, archaeologist, and diplomatist, was born at Washington Hall, co. Durham, on 14 July 1868, the elder child and only daughter of (Thomas) Hugh Bell (1844–1931), an ironmaster, who succeeded his father as second baronet in 1904, and his first wife, Mary (or Maria; 1844–1871), daughter of John Shield of Newcastle.
Family and education
Gertrude Bell is often described as a 'favoured child of fortune' (Graham-Brown, vi), brought up amid the wealth accumulated by her industrialist grandfather, Sir (Isaac) Lowthian Bell, first baronet. She was also favoured by an enlightened upbringing, at Red Barns, the family home near Redcar. Mary Bell's death in 1871, after giving birth to Gertrude's younger brother, Maurice, brought much pain to young Gertrude, a physically restless and intellectually gifted child. The loss of her mother also increased Gertrude's sense of independence and self-reliance; these early years fashioned her into a strong-willed adolescent, whose determination, however, concealed great sensibility and a certain vulnerability.
The special relationship that developed between Gertrude and her father during these formative years continued during her later life. Hugh Bell's dedication to the children of his first marriage was unaffected by his marriage to Florence Olliffe [see Bell, Florence Eveleen Eleanore, Lady Bell], in 1876. Florence managed to win the hearts of young Gertrude and Maurice, filling the void left by the death of their mother, though the births of her own children—Hugh (Hugo) Lowthian Bell (1878–1926), Florence Elsa (1880–1971), who married Admiral Sir Herbert William Richmond, and Mary (Molly) Katharine [see Trevelyan, Mary Katharine]—inevitably altered the family's dynamic. As the eldest of the five, Gertrude affirmed her leadership by excelling in all sorts of intellectual and athletic activities, displaying an immense drive and great readiness to measure up to challenges.
Brilliant, opinionated, and quick at light repartee, Gertrude projected a sense of inner strength unmatched by other young women in her circle. These qualities, together with her aptitude for work, turned her into an outstanding pupil at Queen's College, Harley Street, London, a leading girls' school, and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, which she entered in April 1886, not yet eighteen, 'half child, half woman, rather untidy' (Courtney, 57). Contemporaries were impressed by her athletic accomplishments—she could swim, fence, row, play tennis and hockey—as well as her breadth of reading and considerable self-confidence. Through solid study, seven hours per day, and after only two years, she gained a first in modern history in 1888. At Oxford she formed long-standing friendships with Janet Hogarth (later Courtney), Edith Langridge, and Mary Talbot (later Burrows).
After completing her studies, Gertrude was sent by her family on a European tour, staying in Bucharest during 1888–9 with her stepmother's sister, Mary, and her husband, Sir Frank Lascelles, who was then British minister to Romania. Her encounters there with Valentine Chirol (‘Domnul’ in her letters), the Times correspondent in eastern Europe, familiarized her with developments in great power diplomacy and led to important introductions, notably to Charles Hardinge, later Lord Hardinge of Penhurst who, as India's viceroy, later enabled her to play one of the most influential roles in the post-First World War Middle East. She visited Constantinople early in 1889, returning to England later that year. The following three years were divided between the family home in Redcar and London. In Redcar she tutored her younger sisters and assisted her stepmother in philanthropic work among working people employed in the family's ironworks and collieries at Clarence in the Cleveland Hills and later at Middlesbrough. Summers were spent attending the London social season, where she acquired a lifelong habit of cigarette smoking. Without corresponding to the beauty standards of her time, she had become an attractive young woman in her way. She was slender and erect, with fine features, piercing greenish eyes, and a mass of thick light auburn hair usually assembled on the top of her head. Gertrude's attractiveness drew much from her vivacity, physical fitness, and constant, sometimes excessive, preoccupation with clothes. The round of balls and entertainments failed, however, to culminate in marriage.
Persia and the Alps
A visit during 1892 to Persia, where Lascelles had become British minister, led to a formative romantic experience and also to the earliest manifestation of her outstanding literary and linguistic skills. Her stay was abruptly curtailed when her parents refused permission for her intended engagement to the embassy's first secretary, Henry George Gerald Cadogan (1859–1893), grandson of the third Earl Cadogan. Cadogan, who died not long after her departure from Tehran, was known to lack financial means to support a wife and was believed to have contracted gambling debts. His death reinforced Bell's personal impressions of the East as the domain of the emotional and it became for her a constant refuge from hard-hearted, sometimes unfulfilling, personal relations in the West. On her return to England she was persuaded to publish, anonymously, a series of her travel sketches adapted from her letters, Safar Nameh: Persian Pictures (1894), notable for their 'vision of Persia as a land with a heroic past' and her depictions of the Persians as 'kindly, hospitable, gifted people' (Arberry, 5). Having studied Persian with the oriental scholar Sandford Arthur Strong during the winter prior to her journey, she embarked on a verse translation of the mystical poet Hafiz (Poems from the Divan of Hafiz, 1897), to which she brought an insightful interpretation of the East's cultural depth and of the underlying ambiguities of Hafiz's poems. Her translation received a favourable critical reception on its publication and was long regarded as the best free-verse translation into English (Ross, 29).
During the 1890s Gertrude undertook many travels with family and friends to France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. She made a world tour by steamship with her brother, Maurice, in 1897–8, while on a further such voyage with her half-brother, Hugo, during 1902–3, Gertrude, who had become atheistic in her beliefs, attempted without success to undermine his religious faith (he subsequently became a clergyman). In the summers of 1899–1904, with the brothers Ulrich and Heinrich Fuhrer as guides, she undertook a series of expeditions in the Alps, where her determination, bravery, physical strength, and endurance became evident. She tackled the Meije in August 1899 and Mont Blanc in the following summer. During the seasons of 1901 and 1902 she systematically explored the Engelhorner group in the Bernese Oberland, achieving in August–September 1901 ten new routes or first ascents. An attempt in 1902 on the north-east face of Finsteraarhorn ended in failure, but was remarkable for the terrifying ordeal which she and her two guides underwent when the weather broke and they were caught in appalling conditions on the mountainside for two nights, roped together, during lightning storms and blizzards. Her ascent of the Matterhorn in August 1904 marked the end of her alpinism.
Travels and archaeology in the Middle East
Gertrude Bell's attraction to the East grew with the frequency of her visits to the area. A visit to Jerusalem early in 1900, at the invitation of Friedrich Rosen, the German consul, was an opportunity to improve her Arabic. Travels on horseback to Petra, Palmyra, and Baalbek were the first of a series of desert journeys, and aroused an interest in Syrian archaeology. She returned to Jerusalem in January 1905 and embarked on a journey through the Syrian desert to Konia in Asia Minor, where she pursued her interest in the Byzantine churches of Anatolia. After meeting the archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, she agreed to revisit the area to make further investigations, in the meantime publishing her preliminary findings in the Revue Archéologique (1906, 1907). Her account of the Syrian portion of her journey, The Desert and the Sown (1907), became a classic of pre-First World War travel literature. Politically, it described the heavy Ottoman presence in the Arab towns and cities (the ‘sown’ areas) but practical absence from the desert areas where the Bedouin tribes were the effective rulers; personally, it revealed her perception of travel in the Middle East as an escape from the restrictions of Western domestic life.
In December 1906 Bell set out to resume her architectural and archaeological researches in Anatolia. She joined Ramsay in May 1907 and they explored the Hittite and Byzantine site of Bin-bir-kilisse in Turkey. Her particular contribution was in establishing the chronology of Byzantine churches in the region. More practical than the absent-minded Ramsay, she directed the team of Turkish diggers. Returning to Britain in August 1907 she and Ramsay published their results in The Thousand and One Churches (1909), to which she contributed the greater part, writing the chapters on the buildings and ecclesiastical architecture.
Gertrude Bell's next expedition, in 1909, was to survey the Roman and Byzantine fortresses on the banks of the Euphrates in Mesopotamia. This has been regarded as her most important journey of exploration, covering territory previously unfamiliar to westerners. Starting from Aleppo she reached the palace of Ukhaidir in March 1909, returning by way of Baghdad and Mosul to Asia Minor. Her account of her journey, Amurath to Amurath (1911), one of her most famous books, was dedicated to Evelyn Baring, first earl of Cromer, British agent and consul-general in Egypt until 1907. She described it as 'the attempt to record the daily life, the speech of those who had inherited the empty ground where empires had risen and expired'. It is most notable for its account of the changes that had taken place in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman empire after the Young Turks' rise to power in 1908 and the dissemination of their ideas in the empire's provinces: among other promising changes, foreign books and papers had become available, and greater freedom of speech and liberty of movement (also for the non-Muslim minorities) had been registered. Describing how she had witnessed 'the confused beginnings [that] were a translation of a generous ideal into the terms of human imperfection' (1924 edn, preface, p. ix), she urged Cromer to help her raise sympathy in England for the Young Turks' movement.
A further expedition to Mesopotamia in 1911 enabled Bell to undertake a fuller survey of the palace of Ukhaidir (the ‘little green palace’), completing her initial sketches and drafts while exchanging notes with a German archaeological team. Belonging either to the Sasanian (or even Lakhmid) pre-Muhammadan types of construction with vestiges of buildings belonging to later periods, including Abbasid (after ad 750), the palace on the west bank of the Euphrates, some 120 miles south-west of Baghdad, remains one of the finest surviving examples of early Islamic architecture. Ukhaidir had not been scientifically explored until 1908–9 when Louis Massignon published some preliminary notes in the Bulletin de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres (March 1909) and in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts (April 1909), and later in his Mission en Mésopotamie (1910). Her own findings were initially published in the Hellenic Journal (1910, pt 1, p. 69), a preliminary to her most important contribution to archaeology, a scholarly monograph, The Palace and Mosque of Ukhaidir: a Study in Early Mohammadan Architecture (1914). Ukhaidir was presented by Bell in her letters as a national symbol representing the historical continuity linking ancient Mesopotamia to modern Iraq.
The results of Bell's archaeological excursions in 1909 and 1911 to Turkish Mesopotamia, where she surveyed and photographed the surviving early Christian architecture of Tur 'Abdin, the ‘Mountain of the Servants of God’, were also published (in M. van Berchem and J. Strzygowski, eds., Amida, 1910), and in Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Architektur, 9 (1913). Her work remains valuable, not least because some of the monuments no longer survive (see her The Churches and Monasteries of Tur 'Abdin, ed. M. M. Mango, 1982).
Bell's intervals in England, between expeditions, were partly spent in laying out the garden in her late grandfather's house, now the family's home, Rounton Grange, near Northallerton. In the years before 1914 her most conspicuous public work in England was as an organizer of the campaign against enfranchising women in parliamentary elections. She became a founder member and later president of the northern section of the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League, launched in July 1908 and chaired by Lady Jersey, which was in 1910 subsumed in the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage under the presidency of Lord Cromer. Her family was divided on the issue: while her father and stepmother, Sir Hugh Bell and Florence Bell, were both anti-suffragists, her half-sister Molly Trevelyan was a constitutional suffragist. Gertrude was among a number of highly talented, well-to-do, and imperially minded women affiliated to the anti-suffrage cause. Like her friend Violet Markham, she supported Mary Ward's Local Government Advancement Committee, founded in 1912 to promote the idea of women's public service in local government, where their expertise in issues of health, education, and welfare, gained through philanthropy, could be most effectively exercised.
Arabia and the Arab Bureau
The man in Bell's life was Charles Hotham Montagu (Dick) Doughty-Wylie (1868–1915), a married army officer whom she had first met in 1907 in Konia, where he was serving as British military vice-consul. After he visited Rounton in August 1913 they started to exchange love letters. The next phase of her travelling has often been seen as an escape from the personal confusion, desolation, and uncertainty arising from their physically unconsummated relationship. Her famous expedition (1913–14) to Haءil in central Arabia, the seat of the Banu Rashid dynasty, should, however, be connected to Gertrude's inner need to be part of the historical moment, both as a voluntary agent of Britain's interests in the Middle East and as a woman trying to break one of the most challenging barriers of her time: the physical conquest of the desert and the decoding of the moral and ethical code of its inhabitants.
Bell, who had been elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in June 1913 soon after membership was opened to women, set out from Damascus with her caravan of camels in December 1913. As with most of her other expeditions, she was the only European among the retinue of Arab drivers and guides. Passing through Amman she crossed the Nefud desert, and reached Haءil in February 1914. In the absence of Amir Ibn Rashid, his sheikhs kept her captive there for eleven days. Returning through Baghdad, she arrived back in Damascus in May 1914. Her intention to publish an account of the journey (for which she received the Royal Geographical Society's gold medal in 1918), was thwarted by the outbreak of war, though after her death D. G. Hogarth wrote it up in the Geographical Journal (1927). Her day-to-day diary, together with a journal of the Amman to Damascus section written for the benefit of Doughty-Wylie, were published in 2000. Her diaries and letters written during the expedition remain the most colourful descriptions of life in the city-fortress and a fascinating study of the customs and practices in central Arabia on the eve of the First World War. Although her journey covered previously uncharted areas of the desert, it was not principally notable as one of exploration; Lady Anne Blunt (whom Bell met in 1906) had travelled in the same region a generation earlier. Rather it was of diplomatic importance for the information that Bell, as the first European to reach Haءil for over a decade, was able to gather about the Rashids, the Ottoman clients in the region.
During the early months of the First World War, Bell served as an officer of the Red Cross, assigned with the search for missing and wounded soldiers. After service in Boulogne she was recalled in February 1915 to reorganize the headquarters in London. Doughty-Wylie's heroic death at Gallipoli in April 1915 was a devastating blow; thereafter her life was mainly dedicated to the politics of the Middle East.
An opportunity to return there arose in autumn 1915 when the military intelligence department in Cairo sought the assistance of British subjects with expert knowledge of pre-war Arabia. At the invitation of the archaeologist D. G. Hogarth (the brother of her Oxford friend Janet), she reached Cairo at the end of November 1915. In the following year the organization formally became known as the Arab Bureau, set up in January 1916 as an adjunct to the intelligence offices of general headquarters (military) to reassess Britain's policy in the region. At first under Hogarth's directorship, the bureau's officers included Ronald Storrs, Kinahan Cornwallis, G. P. Dawnay, and T. E. Lawrence among other British experts in the area. Their main aim was to hasten the departure of the Turks and to provide Britain with a link to the Arabs that would ensure Britain's hegemony over the Middle East once the war was over.
Early in 1916 Bell was summoned to India and asked by Lord Hardinge to proceed to Basrah on a liaison mission as the viceroy's personal envoy in order to assess the effects of the Arab Bureau's schemes, whose approach differed from the India Office's imperial policy. The Arab Bureau took a more pragmatic, flexible, and—in the view of some—insidious strategy, ready to exploit the advantages to be extracted from a rising Arab nationalism to perpetuate Britain's presence in the area. Annexed to the military intelligence department at the headquarters of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force, Bell was charged with gathering information on the movements of Bedouin tribes in central Arabia and in the Sinai peninsula. In Basrah in June 1916 she joined the staff of Sir Percy Cox, chief political officer with the expeditionary force, and was appointed assistant political officer, the only woman to hold formal rank within the force. Among her contributions during these years were informative articles for Hogarth's Arabian Report and for the famous Arab Bulletin, one of the best sources of information on the events in the Middle East during the war.
Oriental secretary in Iraq
After the capture of Baghdad from the Turks by Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Maude in March 1917, Bell continued to act as Cox's right hand in the civil administration of Mesopotamia, as his oriental secretary in charge of daily contacts with the population. In 1917 she was appointed CBE. On Cox's transfer to Tehran in 1918 to negotiate an Anglo-Persian agreement, Bell served his successor, Lieutenant-Colonel Arnold Wilson, though their relationship was uneasy as she actively promoted her own policies, sometimes conspiring with Wilson's superiors at the India Office, among them Sir Arthur Hirtzel, against the acting civil commissioner.
Bell's conflicts with Wilson represented not just a clash of personalities, but also a profound disagreement over Iraq's future. She had previously been sceptical about the possibility of Arab self-government, preferring the model of British rule in Egypt as that for the post-war administration of captured Ottoman territories. But after attending the Paris peace conference in 1919 she became converted to the idea of Arab governments, though guided by British advisers. A staunch believer in the administrative methods of the India Office (and rejecting the promises of autonomy exposed in the 1918 Anglo-French declaration), Wilson opposed Bell's more liberal approach concerning the establishment of an Arab government as the best and cheapest way to maintain Britain's presence in Iraq, and complained that she intrigued behind his back to gain her ends. In two memoranda, 'Self-determination in Mesopotamia' (1919) and 'Syria in October 1919', Bell argued that Arab self-government and administration were a viable option. She also completed her acclaimed Review of the Civil Administration of Mesopotamia, commissioned by Wilson and published as a white paper in 1920. The review which, among other things, described the social conditions in Iraq's tribal areas, remains a widely used source of information.
In April 1920 the San Remo conference established Britain's League of Nations mandate over Iraq. This was followed in summer 1920 by tribal disturbances fanned by Iraqi nationalists of the 'Ahd. Although the uprising had other causes related to tribal politics and reinforced by discontent with taxation and rural conditions the short-lived alliance between Shi'i tribal sheikhs and mujtahids and Sunni nationalists became a national myth or landmark with far-reaching consequences—among them, the end of the regime of military occupation and the establishment of an Arab provisional government under the presidency of the naqib of Baghdad. The uprising brought the return of Sir Percy Cox in October 1920 as British high commissioner and with it an enhanced role for Bell as oriental secretary, a position she held under him and his successor until her death. Cox set about creating a council of state under the naqib, with whom Bell maintained close contact.
In the light of Britain's financial difficulties after the war, Winston Churchill, secretary of state for the colonies, initially favoured British withdrawal from Iraq. But at the Cairo conference of British Middle East officials in March 1921, Churchill came to adopt Cox's and Bell's position for maintaining a presence in Iraq by setting up an Arab regime advised by British officers. This system of indirect rule became a heavy burden on the young state's treasury and was later considered by Iraqi nationalists as an obstacle in the country's path to independence. Bell also played a significant role in securing the throne for Feisal ibn Hussein, whose coronation as king of Iraq took place in August 1921. A close adviser to King Feisal, the Khatun (‘Lady of the Court’, as she became widely known) also stood behind the negotiations for the ratification of the Anglo-Iraqi treaty (October 1922), which formally replaced the mandate.
Bell took part in organizing the elections for the constitutional assembly, and in preparing the electoral law that provided the king and the British high commissioner with the authority to administer the country and create the mechanisms necessary for political representation of all sectors of the population. Together with Kinahan Cornwallis (‘Ken’ in her letters), adviser to Iraq's ministry of the interior and the king's personal counsellor, Bell continued to intervene in the political arrangements that led to the signing of the protocol of 1923. Among other things the protocol fixed Iraq's frontiers with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and, more importantly, with Turkey. It left unsolved, however, the question of the former Mosul vilayet with its Kurdish population, which was settled only in 1925, after the visit to the area of a commission appointed by the League of Nations. Bell was also involved in the discussions regarding the terms of the subsidiary agreements (financial, judicial, and military), the appointments of officials and qadhis, and the question of establishing Arabic as the country's official vernacular. She played an important part in the debates on the methods and aims of the educational system to be created in Iraq, which mainly involved the adoption of more appropriate educational methods for the rural (that is, Shi'i and Kurdish) areas, mediating at times between Sati' al-Husri (the director of education who favoured the establishment of a uniform educational system for all the segments of the population), the subsequent Shi'i ministers of education, and her close friend Lionel Smith, the British adviser to the ministry. She tried to help the Muslim women in Baghdad, who were largely confined indoors; she organized tea parties for them and arranged a series of lectures from a woman doctor.
Death and retrospect
Gertrude Bell's position in Iraq was eroded after Iraq's new constitution (1924) and administrative structures replaced the old, colonial order. She was often at odds with Cox's successor, Sir Henry Dobbs. Her later letters were a barometer of her feelings at the end of her mission in Iraq. Isolated, grief-stricken, and disappointed by Cornwallis's apparent indifference to her infatuation for him (which grew after his divorce in 1925), Bell found consolation in archaeology, gathering funds for a national museum in Baghdad, which was inaugurated in 1923 and installed in a permanent building in 1926. There was little consolation to be found in England, where economic depression had weakened the family's financial position and forced them to close up Rounton Grange. Having returned to Iraq after a sick leave in England in summer 1925, Gertrude Bell died in her sleep at Baghdad during the night of 11/12 July 1926 and was buried on the evening of the 12th in the British military cemetery there. The cause of her death was an overdose of sleeping tablets, taken on the night of 11 July. Close friends, who were aware of her depression, believed that she had taken her own life, but there was no direct evidence as to whether the fatal dose was intentional. A memorial service was held at St Margaret's, Westminster.
Bell's adult life divided into three phases. In the first, during the 1890s, contemporaries saw her as 'an accomplished young lady of good family and brilliant intellectual gifts' (Arberry, 6). But dissatisfied with the conventional role of domesticity and philanthropy assigned to well-to-do, unmarried women, she turned to independent travel, first in the Alps, then in the Middle East, with the intellectual dimensions of archaeological discovery and political observation. The latter enabled her to assume a public role as the First World War and the end of Ottoman rule in Arab lands created an official outlet for her expertise. At her death she was commemorated as a brilliant public servant, who helped to shape the post-war settlement in the Middle East and in particular the creation of the kingdom of Iraq. H. St J. Philby called her 'the maker of Iraq' and reflected that if Feisal's kingdom survived the vicissitudes of time, 'it will stand forth in history a monument to her genius, to the versatility of her knowledge and influence, and to the practical idealism tempered with honest opportunism which were the outstanding characteristics of a remarkable Englishwoman' (Arberry, 8). Her vitality and vigour were admired by many of her female European contemporaries. 'With a man's grasp of affairs she united a woman's quick instinct', wrote her friend Janet Courtney (Courtney, 62), who placed her in stature alongside the great imperial proconsuls Cromer, Curzon, and Milner.
Bell's legacy in Iraq proved ambiguous; the regime she helped to create was toppled in 1958. Later generations, however, became familiar with her through publication of her letters, first heavily edited by her stepmother (1927) and subsequently in fuller selections edited by Elizabeth Burgoyne (1958, 1961). Later studies brought to light the emotional trauma of her relationship with Doughty-Wylie. Most of all they reveal her ability as a writer and observer, and the extent of her engagement with a Middle East which is also documented in the large collection of technically impressive photographs taken by her during her journeys in the area. Indeed, it is as one of the greatest chroniclers of Britain's imperial moment in the Middle East that she is best remembered.
- Gertrude Bell papers, U. Newcastle, special collections
- colonial and foreign office files, TNA: PRO
- A. T. Wilson papers, BL
- Elizabeth Robins papers, New York University, Fales Library
- The letters of Gertrude Bell, ed. Lady Bell (1927)
- The earlier letters of Gertrude Bell, ed. E. Richmond (1937)
- E. Burgoyne, Gertrude Bell from her personal papers, 2 vols. (1958–61)
- S. Deardon, ‘Gertrude Bell: a journey of the heart’, Cornhill Magazine, no. 1062 (winter 1969–1970), 457–510
- Gertrude Bell: the Arabian diaries, 1913–1914, ed. R. O'Brien (2000)
- D. Hogarth, GJ, 68 (1926)
- R. P.-H., Alpine Journal, 34 (1926), 29
- Alpine Journal, 34 (1926), 296–9
- J. E. Courtney, Brown Book (Dec 1926), 57–62 [Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford]
- M. R. Ridley, Gertrude Bell (1941)
- J. Kamm, Daughter of the desert: the story of Gertrude Bell (1956)
- S. Hill, Gertrude Bell (1868–1926): a selection from the photographic archive of an archaeologist and traveller (1976)
- S. Goodman, Gertrude Bell (1985)
- L. Gordon, Gertrude Bell (1994)
- J. Wallach, Desert queen: the extraordinary life of Gertrude Bell (1996)
- E. D. Ross, preface, Poems from the Divan of Hafiz, trans. G. Bell (1928)
- K. Cornwallis, introduction, in G. Bell, The Arab war: dispatches from the ‘Arab Bulletin’ (1940)
- A. J. Arberry, preface, in G. Bell, Persian pictures, 3rd edn (1947)
- S. Graham-Brown, introduction, in G. Bell, The desert and the sown (1985)
- M. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, 4: 1916–1922 (1975)
- P. P. Graves, The life of Sir Percy Cox (1941)
- B. Harrison, Separate spheres: the opposition to women's suffrage in Britain (1978)
- L. James, The golden warrior: the life and legend of Lawrence of Arabia (1990)
- J. Lewis, Women and social action in Victorian and Edwardian England (1991)
- L. Lukitz, Iraq: the search for national identity (1995)
- J. Marlowe, Late Victorian: the life of Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson (1967)
- P. Marr, The modern history of Iraq (1985)
- B. Melman, Woman's Orient: English women and the Middle East, 1718–1918 (1992)
- E. Monroe, Britain's moment in the Middle East, 1914–1956 (1963)
- P. Sluglett, Britain in Iraq, 1914–1932 (1976)
- 'Abd al-Razzaq Al-Hasani, Taءrikh al-wizarat al- 'iraqiyya, 3, 4 (1939–40) [‘The history of Iraq's cabinets’]
- 'Abd al-Razzaq Al-Hasani, Al Thawra al- 'arabiyya al-kubra sanat 1920, 3rd edn (1978) [‘The 1920 great Iraqi revolution’]
- 'Abd al-Razzaq Al-Hasani, Al-'Iraq: qadima wa haditha (1973) [‘Iraq: ancient and modern’]
- Sati'Al-Husri, Mudhakkirati fi al-'iraq, 2 vols. (1966) [‘Memoirs from Iraq’]
- Al-Waqaءi al-'iraqiyya (1920–) [‘Iraqi Gazette’, official publication]
- BL, travel diaries, Add. MS 45158
- RGS, notebooks
- St Ant. Oxf., Middle East Centre, letters to Mr and Mrs Humphrey Bowman; copy of travel diary; corresp. and papers relating to her
- U. Durham L., intelligence reports on Iraq, Syria, and Ibn Saud
- U. Newcastle, Robinson L., corresp. and papers incl. diaries
- BL, A. T. Wilson papers
- Bodl. Oxf., corresp. with Lord Lovelace and Lady Lovelace
- CUL, corresp. with Lord Hardinge and papers
- Mitchell L., NSW, letters to G. E. Morrison
- NA Scot., letters to Philip Kerr
- NL Scot., letters to members of the Campbell family
- St Ant. Oxf., Middle East Centre, corresp. with H. St J. B. Philby
- U. Durham, Sudan archives
- F. Russell, watercolour drawing, 1887, NPG
- photograph, 1900, Hult. Arch. [see illus.]
- photograph, 1918, RGS
- J. S. Sargent, drawing, 1925, priv. coll.
- A. Acheson, bronze bust (after J. S. Sargent; posthumous, 1923), RGS
- A. Acheson, bust, Baghdad Museum, Iraq
- J. Weston & Sons, photograph, RGS
- photographs, U. Newcastle, Gertrude Bell archive
Wealth at Death
£25,604 9s. 11d.: probate, 1926
- Bell, Sir (Isaac) Lowthian, first baronet (1816–1904), iron and steel manufacturer
- Bell [née Olliffe], Florence Eveleen Eleanore, Lady Bell (1851–1930), author, social investigator, and playwright
- Trevelyan [née Bell], Mary Katharine [Molly], Lady Trevelyan (1881–1966), political hostess and voluntary worker
- Wylie, Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty- (1868–1915), army officer and consul