As Iraq struggles to become a democracy, readers may want to know how the modern state came to be. An important player was archaeologist, explorer, and political powerhouse Gertrude Bell, Iraq's first Director of Antiquities and the founder of the National Museum of Iraq. As the first woman officer in British military intelligence, she gained the trust of powerful sheiks in the Middle East and was key to the creation of the national borders--and international conflicts--that still exist in the Middle East today. Two recent books revisit this remarkable Victorian: Janet Wallach's Desert Queen (New York: Anchor Books, 2005; $15.95), a new edition of the highly respected biography with a new afterword by the author; and H.V.F. Winstone's Gertrude Bell (London: Barzan Publishing, 2004; $29.95), a substantially revised, updated, and enlarged edition of his seminal 1978 biography.