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The Real T.E. Lawrence

- Abstract

DURING his lifetime, and even more so after his death, Colonel T. E. Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia,” was the subject of a great deal of curiosity and speculation. The literature about him is voluminous and varied, ranging from accounts of his military career during World War I and his political activities afterward, to investigations of his private life, and explanations-sometimes involved and farfetched, and sometimes downright sensational-of his personality and behavior.

The Lawrence corpus-as we may call it-began to be formed almost immediately after the end of the war. It can be said to begin with the popular show which Lowell Thomas put on in 1919 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and which he called “With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia.” Five years later, in 1924, Thomas published With Lawrence in Arabia, which also proved to be highly popular, and which made Lawrence a familiar name and a thrilling legend to many more than could have seen the Covent Garden spectacle. Though this was not known at the time, it appears that Lawrence helped Thomas both with his show and his book. Two other works published before World War II were, in their turn, heavily indebted to Lawrence’s help and inspiration. They spread the story of his war-time activities in a version which he approved, magnifying the significance of his adventures in the war against the Ottomans, and extolling the originality of his military tactics and doctrine.

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