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Wednesday, September 6, 2023 @ 6:00 pm-8:00 pm


Alison Shan Price MBE on ‘The Accounts of Activists and Arabists Gertrude Bell, Violet Dickson and Freya Stark: Rewriting History’

By Ali Khadr

Alison Shan Price MBE on ‘The Accounts of Activists and Arabists Gertrude Bell, Violet Dickson and Freya Stark: Rewriting History’

If we look at modern perspectives regarding early twentieth-century British interactions in Iraq it could be assumed that any British woman traveller born in the nineteenth-century would hold an imperial mindset. The collective writings of Arabists Gertrude Bell CBE, Dame Violet Dickson (Um Saud) and Dame Freya Stark, however, offer a counter-narrative.

Defying convention, these women travelled through revolution, war and profound world change, offering first-hand accounts through personal letters, published travelogues, photography and cartography. Reputations ranged from the respected to the ridiculed with Gertrude Bell once described in a letter to Winston Churchill as ‘a potential danger that requires constant watching’.

This talk will explore the contrasting worlds inhabited by these women, from the political to the personal and offer a different perspective on the contributions of the female Arabist in the early years of modern Iraq.

To register your place please sign up here. 

Alison Shan Price MBE

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society 

Alison holds a bachelor’s degree in physics, the Licentiateship of London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and a Masters degree (by Research) in History. Since 1984 she has lived in Kuwait and is the Founder and CEO of the multicultural company One World Actors Centre CIC.  Alison’s ongoing academic and practical research into historical intercultural relationships is supported by Middle Eastern and Western experts. It forms the basis of working groups, presentations, and bilingual Living History performance.

Her lecture series The Middle East & Victoria’s Women was inspired by a meeting in 1984 with 88-year-old Um Saud, Dame Violet Dickson, resident of Kuwait from 1929-91, and an invitation by Middle Eastern playwright Hooda Shawa to create and perform the monodramatic role of Dame Freya Stark. The series is presented annually in the Cultural Seasons of the Dar al Athar al Islamiyyah at the kind invitation of Director-General H.E. Sheikha Hussa Sabah al Salem al Sabah and the National Council for Culture Arts & Letters. Through utilising Arabic and English primary sources, it details the survival in turbulent environments, and active support for Arab independence, of Western women Arabists living, and often choosing to die, in the Near and new Middle East. Analysis of their collective authorship, written during the final century of the Ottoman Empire, World Wars and creation of modern Arab countries, has revealed a network of information and activism which challenges the current narrative of modern history.

In 2017, Alison was awarded an MBE for Services to Dramatic Arts in Kuwait and the Gulf Regions and holds the Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society.

Date and time

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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

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@ 6:00 pm-8:00 pm


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, Virtual 



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BISI works to advance research and public education about Iraq in all of the arts, humanities and social sciences subjects, and enables exchange and collaboration between UK and Iraqi academics. Our grants and scholarships have helped the fund the following research projects.