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Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East Paperback – June 3, 2014
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book helped me understand a lot of why the world is so messed up today. Everything from Israel to the struggle in Syria today can be traced back to this period in history. Read morePublished 3 days ago by average consumer
Wonderfully written, this book goes a long way to explaining the root causes of the turmoil of the modern Middle East.Published 15 days ago by David Heitman
The man, the myth, the history. The author takes the reader through an often overlooked but pivotal part of the Great War tying together many of the threads that led to the current... Read morePublished 15 days ago by David M. Adler
Anderson provides interesting insights into the life of Lawrence as well as the surrounding conflicts of the time period. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Amazon Customer
An extraordinary readable book of the political and military events in the Middle East during World War I. Read morePublished 19 days ago by bd schraeder
Great read! Author doesn't pull any punches about the characters. Shows Lawrence in a fairly neutral light.Published 1 month ago by ghaniawala
According to Scott Anderson the old David Lean Movie got Lawrence's character right but the history wrong. Read morePublished 1 month ago by M. Robinson
Fine read but sometimes the authors bias shows through. But we must realize the time and place Lawrence was in when he decided to write how he saw the world, and was trying to do... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Richard W. Hembling