Welcome to our inaugural newsletter from the Letters from Baghdad team.
Gertrude Bell 100 years ago…
In June 1913, Gertrude Bell was among the first women to be elected as a Fellow to the Royal Geographical Society (“RGS”). The decision to admit women ended a 20 year debate and the newly elected women represented both the Victorian past and the new scientific community. Bell went on to receive their Founder’s Gold Medal for her landmark journey to Hayil in the largely unmapped Nejd desert in northern Arabia.
A Work in Progress…
The last few months have been very active for the Letters from Baghdad team. As we piece together the extraordinary tale of Gertrude Bell’s life and influence, we have sought out the voices of her family, friends, enemies, colleagues and contemporaries. Some of these names are well known to us today including Lawrence of Arabia and Sir Winston Churchill. During an intensive ten day research trip in March, we scoured rich collections of letters and documents at British institutions such as the Middle East Centre at Oxford, the Imperial War Museum, Durham University, and the Gertrude Bell Archive at University of Newcastle. We also visited the Bell family estate in Yorkshire and the Gertrude Bell Memorial stained glass window in the local church, pictured above. Our understanding of her life and times has been vastly expanded through connecting with these fascinating primary sources.
Our next major milestone is in September; the screening of a 30 minute work-in-progress of Letters from Baghdad at a three day conference organized by The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI) and the British Academy in London. Academics from all over the world will present papers on Gertrude Bell: her influence on British Middle East policy and the creation of the modern State of Iraq, her role as a woman in a man’s world and her enduring legacy to the world of archaeology.
Join the Letters from Baghdad Team!
We have made excellent progress towards meeting our funding needs but still have a way to go. Our documentary would not be possible without the generous support you have already shown. As a small team, every dollar counts and every new supporter helps us reach our goal.
Please click here to join our team by making a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible donation today.
As a thank you for your support and generosity, contributions will entitle you to invitations to special events and premieres and, at certain levels, to receive on-screen credit.
About the Film
Directed by Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, Letters from Baghdad tells the story of Gertrude Bell who left the confines of Edwardian England to seek freedom and independence in the Arabian desert and became the most powerful woman of her day in the British Empire. In the aftermath of World War I, Bell drew the borders of modern Iraq, installed its first king and founded the Baghdad Museum of Antiquities. The film, the first feature-length documentary on Gertrude Bell, explores the choices that trail blazing women almost always have to make, and how her actions and the decisions she made in the formation of modern Iraq continue to influence current events in the Middle East and the world today.