Gertrude Bell's Arabian Diaries, published here for the first time, rank as one of the great travel narratives, carrying readers along on a desperate and heroic journey that foreshadows the emergence of the future imperial servant in Baghdad in the 1920s. Bell's adventures are the stuff of novels: she rode with bandits, braved desert shamals, was captured by Bedouins, and sojourned in a harem. Called the most powerful woman in the British Empire, she counseled kings and prime ministers. He colleagues included Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, who in 1921 invited Bell--the only woman whose advice was sought--to the Cairo Conference to "determine the future of Mesopotamia." She numbered among her closest friends T.E. Lawrence, St. John Philby, and Arabian sheiks. Editor O'Brien preserves Bell's elegant, vibrant prose, and includes her photographs and excerpts of the love letters she exchanged with a married British army officer.--From publisher description.