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Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East [Kindle Edition]

Scott Anderson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (930 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.95
Kindle Price: $10.76
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

New York TimesChristian Science Monitor • NPR • Seattle TimesSt. 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.

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2013: Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia is a marvel of a history book. The research is impeccable. The story is fascinating and unforgettable. And the characters are so compelling that they seem to have been plucked from a novel. During World War I, the course of the modern day Middle East was set by a handful of young, low-ranking actors who exerted oversized influence on the region. Anderson focuses our attention on four men: a minor German diplomat and spy, an American oilman descended from the Yale family, a Romanian-born agronomist, and T.E. Lawrence himself. As we witness the western nations attempting to carve up a region that they were never able to master, these adventurous and often duplicitous men come to full life--none more so than Lawrence. The amount of research it must have taken to write this book is astounding. But there is no filler here: this is the kind of detail that causes the narrative to pop, that makes it live and breathe, and it will keep you reading long into the night. --Chris Schluep

From Booklist

*Starred Review* To historians, the real T. E. Lawrence is as fascinating as the cinematic version in Lawrence of Arabia is to movie fans. The many reasons interlock and tighten author Anderson’s narrative, yielding a work that can absorb scholarly and popular interest like. Start with Lawrence’s WWI memoir, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922). A rare-book collectible, it inspired many of the scenes in David Lean’s film and is also subject to cross-referencing interpretations of Lawrence’s veracity. For lyrical though Lawrence could be about Arab leaders and desert landscapes, he could also be enigmatically opaque about the truth of his role in events. Accordingly, Anderson embeds Lawrence and Seven Pillars in the wider context of the Arab revolt against Turkey, and that context is the British, French, German, and American diplomacy and espionage intended to influence the postwar disposition of the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence was Britain’s agent in this game, and the other powers’ agents, although none enjoy his historical celebrity, assume prominence in Anderson’s presentation. Its thorough research clothed in smoothly written prose, Anderson’s history strikes a perfect balance between scope and detail about a remarkable and mysterious character. --Gilbert Taylor

Product Details

  • File Size: 6521 KB
  • Print Length: 618 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0771007663
  • Publisher: Anchor (August 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,605 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
268 of 288 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Larger than Life July 5, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Scott Anderson brings an interesting background to this latest history of the modern Middle East. His father was an agricultural advisor to the US government. As a result, Anderson grew up largely in Taiwan and Korea, although he graduated from Gainesville High School in Florida. A novelist and veteran war reporter who has covered foreign conflicts for two decades in five countries, Anderson spent four years researching Lawrence in Arabia. He combines a feeling for foreign locales and an understanding of the realities of the battlefield with an extensive use of primary documents. The result is provocative history that reads like a political thriller.

Given the strategic importance of the Mid-East today, it is fascinating to read of the disproportionately large impact of some fairly low level functionaries in this "sideshow of a sideshow" (Lawrence's own words) in the run up to World War I. German academic and womanizer Curt Pruefer works to foment Arab jihad against British rule under the protection of Turkish rulers. Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and dedicated Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor by trying to relieve Syria of a plague of locusts. Twenty-seven year old American William Yale transitioned in a short eighteen months from roustabout duties in an Oklahoma oil field to Standard Oil's main agent charged with locating and securing oil in central Judea. Abdul-lah ibn Hussein is assigned by his father, Emir Hussein of Mecca, to sound out the British on supporting an Arab revolt in the Hejaz. Marching into history and legend was TE Lawrence who achieved the wholly unlikely transition from 21 year old archeologist in Syria in 1914 to head of a foreign Arab army in 1919, without a single day of military training.
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125 of 133 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
T. E. Lawrence was legendary even before he died, and some of it was genuinely earned. What makes him a favorite in popular imagination is that he was disdainful of the myth that surrounded him- even when he was instrumental in perpetuating it. He is also, perhaps, seen as a reflection of what many commoners might have felt in the midst of the morass that became World War I: determined to get through the byzantine (no pun intended) negotiations and considerations that were foisted upon the world by outdated principles to arrive at an outcome that would allow his country some honor and the Arabs he was trying to help a measure of dignity that would justify the sacrifices he helped convince them to make. That he made great sacrifices himself is arguably the primary reason there was any honor or dignity to the outcome at all, but the compromises Lawrence had to make to get that far weighed far heavier on him.

This volume gives an extensive, nearly blow by blow account of how Lawrence came to the Middle East, why he became attached to the war effort and, most importantly, what he did. Anderson also explores the lives and careers of others who influenced the war and to some extent the outcome, including the German academic Curt Prufer, the American oilman William Yale and the Romanian-Palestinian-Jewish agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn. What all of three of the men shared was that they were also at one point spies, and each of them was trying to play the conflict in the Ottoman Empire to achieve their own ends. To do that, all of them needed the mercurial Djemal Pasha, one of the leaders of the Young Turks, in one way or another.

Lawrence, however, is the star.
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103 of 115 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a fascinating book, for the most part well written. While the key character is T. E. Lawrence, the book is formally structured as an examination of the roles of and sometimes interaction among four characters: T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), Curt Prufer (umlaut over the u), Aaron Aaronson, and William Yale.

A brief note about each. Lawrence began World War I on an archaeological expedition--and ended up as a celebrity. Prufer was a German who worked for German interests in the Middle East. Aaronsohn was a Zionist and an agronomist trying to enhance agriculture in Jewish areas. He also developed a spy network as World War I broke out. Yale was of the family after whom the college was named. He was, at the outset of WW I, an official for Standard Oil of New York (now Mobil) seeking access to lands that might be rich in oil. During the war, he became a representative of the United States' foreign policy apparatus.

The book provides considerable depth to each of these persons--but Lawrence is at the center. He is portrayed as somewhat enigmatic, someone who was almost a tragic character. While he fought for Arab independence, he knew of nefarious schemes by the English and French to be dominant forces in the Middle East after the war's end. He was a decent person who ended up tolerating acts of violence (such as watching as prisoners were killed after surrendering). The author suggests that, after a period of time at war, he became someone afflicted with Post traumatic stress disorder.

Aaronsohn, too, was an important figure. He tried to advance Zionist ideals and saw that working with Great Britain might be the best pathway. He developed an espionage network in the Middle East, with his sister as a key player.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars What struck me most about the book was the authors ...
What struck me most about the book was the authors distance from the character of Lawrence. Also disappointing was the fact that four tenths of the book was comprised of... Read more
Published 1 day ago by earl shagley
4.0 out of 5 stars Writing of the Past for Today
Better understand the Middle East of today by looking at it's formation after WWI. The author's fact based interwoven stories of four men from different countries advancing their... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Barry Farnham
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great history of the World War I period in the middle east.
Published 2 days ago by Dale McCormick
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Enjoyed reading this book.
Published 2 days ago by Abdisalan M Noor
5.0 out of 5 stars Lawarence wasn't alone!
Gave a fuller and much more engaging picture of the complex world that shaped and was shaped by Lawrence. Even made the movie come alive in new ways. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Herbert C. Hayek
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but Overlong
Lawrence in Arabia is a fascinating journey to another time and place where a group of inexperienced adventurers with big dreams and little understanding made decisions about... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Nona
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the better books that have been written on T
One of the better books that have been written on T.E. Lawrence. Provided a much better history of the man and his exploits in the middle east.
Published 4 days ago by R. M. Haimsohn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 days ago by Yangan Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative about the First World War and helpful, ...
Very informative about the First World War and helpful, sadly, in understanding the situation in the Middle East today.
Published 5 days ago by John E. Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and very well written story
A great and very well written story, you really get to love the other characters, dedicated heroes that accompanied TE Lawrence in his brief pass by history. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Jorge Ianiszewski Rojas
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#94 in Books > History
#94 in Books > History


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