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Just one of the Boys

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CH 301

19 October 2009

Just One of the Boys

Gertrude Bell was a remarkable woman. She was a historian, scholar, archaeologist, mountaineer and fluent in Arabic and Persian. However, she was also an imperialist who was not only ahead of her time as a woman, but also ahead of her time as an imperialist. She was a neo-colonialist before Kwame Nkrumah coined the phrase neo-colonialism in 1966. "The essence of neocolonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside (Nkrumah).

Bell drew up the boundaries for a country to serve the production needs of the British Empire. "...petroleum had become the fuel of choice for industrial nations; it was now driving the engines of factories and farm machinery, ensuring smooth runs for ships, railroads ,airplanes, automobiles ,tanks and trucks" (Wallach 257).

Thus, this region of the world was just another raw resource for exploitation, even if Bell had affection for its history and a few of its people. Granted, she supported Arab self-determine and to some extent Arab self-rule. However, the control over the natural resources and State policies would be controlled and directed by Britain.

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Her attitude was congruent with the attitude of many Europeans who believed colonialism benefited the indigenous population and was the duty of Europe. In 1899, Rudyard Kipling put this sentiment into a poem entitled The White Man Burden. "Take up the White Man's burden--Send forth the best ye breed--... Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child."

Mary Kingsley was another British female explorer who in 1899 viewed Africans as, "a different kind of human being to white man." She viewed European technology as a, "manifestation of the superiority of my race" (Noble 815).

Although Bell admired the history and culture of the Middle East, she was paternalist and imperialist in her assessments of its strengths and weaknesses. "Iraq...controlled by a paternal British High Commissioner, nannied by British advisers; mothered by herself( Wallach 216).

She supported the Arab revolt as long as it released the region from control of the Ottoman Turks. She spent her days and nights detailing who was who. Her letters to her British political office detailed the divide and conquer, subsidize your supporters' politics that were the political strategy of that region and era. She wanted the Middle East to be controlled by Britain. And Britain in treaty after treaty with governments that it installed; insured that their Empire controlled the nature resources, minerals and oil. Many agreements



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