School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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Gertrude Bell and the “Woman Question”

Courtesy of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, on Wednesday November 18 2015 Professor Helen Berry delivered a guest lecture on ‘Gertrude Bell and the “Woman Question”’ at the British Academy in London. The lecture explored the paradoxes and contradictions in Gertrude Bell’s life from the perspective of women’s history. As Professor Berry explained, ‘to some, Bell could be regarded as a feminist icon, a pioneering woman in a man’s world – a scholar, traveller, archaeologist, diplomat and curator in an era where few careers were open to women’.

The talk was well-attended with 130 guests including two former British ambassadors to Baghdad, the current Chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, several Fellows of the British Academy, and many PhD students and members of the public.

During her talk, Professor Berry utilised images from the Gertrude Bell Archive, which has stimulated a renewed interest in the collection which is under the care of the Special Collections department, based at Newcastle University. The archive comprises 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.

Photographs from the archive can be purchased online on the Gertrude Bell Archive.

published on: 7 December 2015