Lawrence of Arabia and American Culture: The Making of a Transatlantic Legend

Lawrence of Arabia and American Culture: The Making of a Transatlantic Legend

Lawrence of Arabia and American Culture: The Making of a Transatlantic Legend

Lawrence of Arabia and American Culture: The Making of a Transatlantic Legend

Synopsis

Departing from prior scholarship on T. E. Lawrence, this work examines the extent of Anglo-American cultural interplay and the popular cultural machinery involved in the manufacture of the Lawrence of Arabia legend. The book features several unpublished or rare photographs and draws upon previously unpublished manuscript material, business letters, and supporting documents to recreate the origins of the popular legend of Lawrence of Arabia.

Excerpt

This is a book about how the popular legend of Lawrence of Arabia, a British military figure, was created and nurtured in the United States, how the story was imported to England, and how and why for the past seventy-five years it has continued to resonate on both sides of the Atlantic.

The book developed from discussions about nationalism with the late Marcus Cunliffe, a longtime British observer of American culture. During one of these conversations, I asked him why the image of T. E. Lawrence in flowing Bedouin robes is fixed in the imagination and memory of the public while his contributions to British national aims and other accomplishments have often been forgotten. The question prompted a discussion about heroes and the popular culture machinery that goes into the creation of modern-day legends and myths. I suggested Lawrence of Arabia was as much an American creation as a British one, an observation that led to this present study.

Although Marcus Cunliffe did not live to see even one of its chapters written, Lawrence of Arabia and American Culture owes its origins to his encouragement and initial guidance. Other friends at The George Washington University, in particular Bernard Mergen and John Maxwell Hamilton, read drafts and offered valuable criticism of the manuscript. Philip O'Brien (T. E. Lawrence: A Bibliography, 1988) supported the project with a steady stream of correspondence. Other scholars on both sides of the Atlantic answered my queries, occasionally spurred me on with questions of their own, and sent materials. I would like to thank Robert Hatch, Jr., Phillip Knightley, and Kevin Brownlow of London for their correspondence; the late Elie Kedourie who graciously gave of his time while a Wilson fellow . . .

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