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British Women’s History

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nd the bedouins, as symbolized by their horses, clearly represent personal freedom from restraint, as well as from the degeneracy of modern Western civilization.Anne Blunt traveled to the Middle East as one of a married couple. In noticeable ways, her writing shows evidence of the constraints imposed by her husband’s presence. Wilfrid Blunt had been in the diplomatic service but he left it in 1869,1 several years before he and his wife Anne traveled to Mesopotamia in 1877. The Blunts did not travel for health or professional reasons. Because of their wealth and social status, they were able to travel for pleasure and adventure. Wilfrid Blunt felt the romantic attraction to the bedouins, and he introduced his wife Anne to the beauty and freedom of desert travel on horseback. Their times together on these desert trips were the best in their marriage. The Blunts loved horses and embarked on rigorous journeys. The Blunts rode thousands of miles on horseback across the inhospitable stretches of the Syrian, Iraqi and Arabian deserts.2Anne Blunt’s life (1837-1917) and writing career extended into the twentieth century. Her death near the end of the First World War coincided fairly closely with the death of the Ottoman Empire, that sick man of Europe whose remains the European nations were waiting to carve up and did carve up in the wake of the war. By the terms of the post-war Mandate system, Britain occupied Palestine, Iraq, and Transjordan. France took over Syria and Lebanon. The British had already owned Egypt since 1882, and the French had invaded Algeria in 1834. Because Anne Blunt lived to see the outbreak of the First World War, she also witnessed the beginnings of the struggle of the Arab peoples for self-rule. Her husband was an outspoken advocate of Arab nationalism who argued for Egyptian independence. Anne Blunt usually lived part of each year in Egypt after the British takeover in 1882, and she continued to breed Arabian horses both in England and Egypt while Egypt began to transform itself into a twentieth-century nation.