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Lawrence in Arabia : War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East
by Scott Anderson

Overview -

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.  Read more...


 
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More About Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson
 
 
 
Overview

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 Prufer 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. Prufer 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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385532921
  • ISBN-10: 038553292X
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books
  • Publish Date: August 2013
  • Page Count: 592


Related Categories

Books > Political Science > International Relations - Diplomacy
Books > History > Middle East - General
Books > History > Military - World War I

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-05-20
  • Reviewer: Staff

Justifying this addition to the mountain of works on T.E. Lawrence, fabled war correspondent Anderson (The Man Who Tried to Save the World) reasons that “Lawrence was both eyewitness to and participant in some of the most pivotal events leading to the creation of the modern Middle East... a corner of the earth where even the simplest assertion is dissected and parsed and argued over.” Too many biographers of Lawrence, he suggests, have let political biases and academic hobbyhorses overshadow their work. Anderson’s own experience in some of the world’s most chaotic places allows him to speak with authority in his portrayal, at once critical and appreciative, of Lawrence and other larger-than-life individuals who left their mark on the region. A flair for the dramatic makes even the dullest historical moments redolent of palace intrigue and imperialist hubris. Readers seeking to understand why turmoil has been so omnipresent in the Middle East will benefit from Anderson’s easy prose, which makes liberal use of primary sources and research, but reads like a political thriller. The central message seems as relevant today as it was a century ago: revolutions whose success is dependent on the patronage of external powers come at a high price—a “loss of autonomy” and an influx of foreign carpetbaggers who show little concern for the inhabitants of the newly “free” land. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (Aug. 6)

 
BookPage Reviews

The great Middle East game

Lawrence in Arabia is so geographically far-ranging that it needs to be read with an atlas of the Middle East close by—and perhaps a bottle or two of strong drink to get one through its more harrowing passages. Although the fabled T.E. Lawrence is the focal point of the narrative, author Scott Anderson casts a much wider net, sketching in the imperial designs, battles, political machinations and tribal rivalries that convulsed Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt during WWI—and including those regions that would eventually become Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel.

Besides the diminutive, scholarly and strong-willed Lawrence, Anderson constructs his history around larger-than-life figures such as the agronomist, spymaster and ardent Zionist Aaron Aaronsohn; the blue-blood oil explorer William Yale; the German master of intrigue Curt Prufer; and Djemal Pasha, the military and political leader of half the besieged Ottoman Empire.

A major theme here is the incompetence and institutional cross-purposes of the British military establishment, failings that would have been comic had they not led to such massive loss of life (most infamously at Gallipoli). It’s little wonder that Lawrence, a schemer who worked his own plans at his own pace, was so effective initially in his campaign for Arab independence. His gifts for language, cultural understanding and diplomacy enabled him to assemble and lead native troops in a series of successful campaigns. And despite his Oxford education and finely tuned English sensibilities, he could—and did—spill Turkish blood as readily as his most savage underlings. In spite of the battles he won, though, he ultimately lost his private war to keep England and France from imposing their will on the conquered territories.

Following the war, Lawrence did as much to lower his profile as he had done to raise it during the hostilities. Working in a series of low-level military jobs, writing his memoirs and withdrawing further into seclusion, Lawrence exhibited all the symptoms, Anderson notes, of PTSD. He died in a motorcycle accident in 1935 at the age of 47.

 
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