Today In Fact, 12 July

James the shit as his Irish Catholic followers came to call him chickened-out of the Battle of Boyne today in 1690 and thereby lost his kingdom to William of Orange. To this day, militant protestants in Ireland celebrate “the Twelfth” with marches and bonfires organized by the Orange Order.

The Battle of the Boyne and its victor, William of Orange has come to be a divisive figure in British imperialism. Although much of British Imperial history is divisive and oppressive, there are some shafts of light that fall upon the wreck of Britannia’s empire.

British Imperialism in Ireland shares this day with the death of perhaps the greatest British Imperialist in Arabia; Getrude Bell who overdosed on sleeping tablets on this day in 1926.

Now Gertrude was born into a wealthy and established English family. She went to Oxford and developed a wanderlust. Her family wealth allowed her to travel abroad and by the 1890’s she was travelling about the globe mountaineering. She learned many languages and gravitated towards the Middle East. Gertrude wrote some travel books and her well-written and vivid descriptions gained a wide audience in Europe and the West.

In the early 1900’s she worked on various archaeological digs in the Middle East and met Lawrence of Arabia at a dig in ancient Carchemish.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Gertrude volunteered with the Red Cross in France but was later asked by British Intelligence to get soldiers through the deserts, and from the World War I period until her death she was the only woman holding political power and influence in shaping British imperial policy in the Middle East.

Together with Lawrence, Gertrude can be credited with the creation of Iraq, Jordan and for some time she actually helped run Iraq, promoted the creation of its national library and the Baghdad Archaeological Museum.

Her obituary reads: No woman in recent time has combined her qualities – her taste for arduous and dangerous adventure with her scientific interest and knowledge, her competence in archaeology and art, her distinguished literary gift, her sympathy for all sorts and condition of men, her political insight and appreciation of human values, her masculine vigour, hard common sense and practical efficiency – all tempered by feminine charm and a most romantic spirit.

Still today Arabs remember Gertrude Bell with fondness and reverence. An altogether different type of Imperialist to William of Orange and his lily-livered antagonist Seamus the shit.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer (serendipiday.blogspot.com)