Lawrence in Arabia

Lawrence in Arabia

War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Book - 2013
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NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
New York Times * Christian Science Monitor * NPR * Seattle Times * St. Louis Dispatch

National Book Critics Circle Finalist -- American Library Association Notable Book

A thrilling and revelatory narrative of one of the most epic and consequential periods in 20th century history - the Arab Revolt and the secret "great game" to control the Middle East
      
The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War One was, in the words of T.E. Lawrence, "a sideshow of a sideshow."  Amidst the slaughter in European trenches, the Western combatants paid scant attention to the Middle Eastern theater.  As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power. 
 
Curt Prüfer was an effete academic attached to the German embassy in Cairo, whose clandestine role was to foment Islamic jihad against British rule.  Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Syria. William Yale was the fallen scion of the American aristocracy, who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order gain valuable oil concessions.  At the center of it all was Lawrence.  In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in the sands of Syria; by 1917 he was the most romantic figure of World War One, battling both the enemy and his own government to bring about the vision he had for the Arab people.
 
The intertwined paths of these four men - the schemes they put in place, the battles they fought, the betrayals they endured and committed - mirror the grandeur, intrigue and tragedy of the war in the desert.  Prüfer became Germany's grand spymaster in the Middle East.  Aaronsohn constructed an elaborate Jewish spy-ring in Palestine, only to have the anti-Semitic and bureaucratically-inept British first ignore and then misuse his organization, at tragic personal cost.  Yale would become the only American intelligence agent in the entire Middle East - while still secretly on the payroll of Standard Oil.  And the enigmatic Lawrence rode into legend at the head of an Arab army, even as he waged secret war against his own nation's imperial ambitions.
 
Based on years of intensive primary document research, LAWRENCE IN ARABIA definitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed.  Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.

Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Doubleday, c2013.
Edition: 1st ed. --
ISBN: 9780385532921
038553292X
Branch Call Number: 940.41241092 Lawre-A
Characteristics: xii, 577 p. : ill.

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lukasevansherman
Aug 07, 2016

I recently saw David Lean's magnificent film "Lawrence of Arabia" (In the theater, as it should be.) and was curious about the historical context and the real Lawrence. Scott Anderson's compelling and illuminating book both gives you a picture of Lawrence as well as goes into depth about the politics of the period, which resulted in the Sykes-Picout Agreement that created the modern MIddle East and did an incredible amount of damage. It's useful to remember that the imperial ambitions of France and England laid the foundation for the conflicts we are still dealing with. An important book that anyone who seeks to make sense of the Middle East should read. I'd also recommend "The Fall of the Ottomans" and "Power, Faith, and Fantasy."

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belalin
May 09, 2016

Very well written and an enjoyable read but very detailed. Consequently I could only read about an hour of it per sitting. This is a must read not only for understanding the mess in the Middle East today but the stupidity and horror of WWI.

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salamanderA
Jan 23, 2016

Scott Anderson's sweeping history and biography of several major players in the WWI era is a compelling, masterful read, including for anyone who is trying to understand the roots of what is happening in the Middle East today. With its unique perspective and wonderfully-arranged and researched detail, it is a fitting companion to the best of WWI histories that focus on the theatre in Europe.

c
Chris22Dunbar
Jan 02, 2015

Excellent read. Thoroughly researched and a great bibliography! I now have a must-read list of 12 books from this bibliography alone. Very well written which is a treat now a days! It covers more than just Lawrence's life but all the other players during this period as well without making it confusing. Anderson does provide a very balanced view of Lawrence without vilifying him or making him out to be more of a hero than he was. Highly recommended and I'm a bit sorry that the book had to end.

l
louarnold
Nov 08, 2014

This book is fine for the amateur historian who loves excruciating detail. I got lost in it and put it down about half way through. If you want a summary, see the movie. From the table of contents, I don't see a useful statement about why Arabia is or behaves the way it does, although that information might be gleaned from the book overall. But the book is unlikely to shed light on how the Arabs should be engaged in the modern world.

A must read for any student of Middle Eastern history. The story of T.E. Lawrence is a fascinating look at a pivotal place and time in history in which events were set in motion that continue to have impact today. Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 2014.

f
fjvalentin
Jan 06, 2014

A very well written book. Many of us know WWI history from the European western front standpoint, but don't have a grasp of what transpired in the Middle East during WWI. I found it well written and thoroughly researched. I was intrigued with how he described how the Western mentality of handling the Middle East carries through to today, numerous wars later.

ChristchurchLib Oct 15, 2013

"British Army officer T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935) was the dazzling focus of the 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O'Toole. In Lawrence in Arabia biographer Scott Anderson provides a more sober, though still engaging, portrait of the young man who supported the Arab revolt against Ottoman rule and helped to align the rebels with the British and their allies during World War I." Biography and Memoir October 2013 newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=688879

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Rock_Shadow
Sep 29, 2013

Dense with information (a slow, but great read), well researched, and well written. It is not just fascinating story of Lawrence, but also the story of the WWI folly, the role of allies in the Middle East; and, ultimately, tragic redrawing of the Middle East map.

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StarGladiator
Sep 08, 2013

Naaaah. . Michael Korda's "Hero" is still the best book ever on Lawrence!

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