The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia
by Knightly, Philip and Simpson, Colin
pub. by McGraw Hill, NY - (orig. Thomas Nelson and Sond, London) copyright 1969 isbn (none) - - 334 p. - bibliography - index
This biography of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia - - also known as T. E. Shaw when he was in the Royal Air Force) had the benefit of being written after a number of documents came available after their being covered by the British governments - Secrets Act - and other impediments were passed. It clearly depicts his early life, and how his father (an inheritor of an Irish baronetc) became estranged from his wife (in Ireland), and set up a household in England with the governess of the children by his legal wife. The fact that T.E. and his 4 brothers of that - family - were by law illegitimate caused T.E. much mental suffering. Of course he rose above he rose above his situation and went on to live a very celebrated life. br> When in college at Oxford he came under the influence of David George Hogarth. Hogarth was an orientalist and the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. He was one of those private individuals who made it part of his life work to be of service to the British Empire. Over time he recruited T.E. Lawrence to join him in the quest of enriching and defending the Empire. Under Hogarth Lawrence visited the middle east and published a book on - Crusader Castles -. Another time he spent time at the archeological dig at Carchemish in Asia Minor. Many of the archeological digs were fronts for the basic spying activity and intelligence gathering which empire needs to further its needs and defend its interests.
When WWI broke out, and Turkey, which at that time controlled its own empire stretching from what is currently Turkey, SE to include Persia (Iran) and SW including what is now Iraq, Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine (including Isreal) up to but not including Egypt, became the enemy of England and the western Allies. Lawrence was among a group of -political officers- which operated in the shadows getting things done to support the war effort. He was wildly successful and managed to cajole and drive the Arabians, mostly through connections with the Sharif of Mecca, to take the area including Damascus, Syria. In doing this he led the Arabs to understand what was not to be. This bothered him for years later. What bothered him more was that the French eventually got Syria. Lawrence really did not like the French. Lawrence proposed that the Zionists (Jewish who wished to establish a Jewish state) could work with the Arabs and displace the French. As we know, this did not happen. The peace conference in Paris was a huge disappointment.
After things set and territory divided Lawrence basically became depressed and more than a little mentally unstable. He browbeat Winston Churchill and the head of the RAF (Air Force) to allow him to enter as an enlisted man under a pseudonym T.E. Shaw. It did not work out as he was discovered and the popular press made his life there impossible. Lawrence hired a person to be a friend and also serve certain needs he had, including sometime physical chastisement, which some figment of his imagination demanded. He exhibited some very unstable behavior. Was removed from the RAF and joined the Army tank corps. That was even worse, and he left that service. After some time he begged his way back into the RAF and was successful for many years as a clerk and later greatly assisted the design of fast light crash boats used to rescue flying boats which crashed upon takeoff or landing. He was also successful in causing a number of reforms to military life, this done through informal channels made up of very influential people he knew and corresponded with, not the least was G. B. Shaw's wife. Mrs. Shaw (old enough to be his mother) was in many ways his closest friend. She and her husband were major editors of his book -The Seven Pillars of Wisdom-.
T.E. Lawrence died 6 days after a motorcycle accident which occurred on 13 May 1935 only 10 weeks after he retired from the RAF. There were many conspiracy theories, but in fact his death was a simple accident.
Read this book if you want to understand Lawrence of Arabia. It covers all the bases, and the research behind it is rather complete.
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