Academic journal article Military Review

T.E. Lawrence

Academic journal article Military Review

T.E. Lawrence

Article excerpt

T.E. LAWRENCE, Malcolm Brown, New York University Press, NY, 2003, 160 pages, $21.95.

T.E. Lawrence is best known as Lawrence of Arabia, the soldier-scholar who helped lead the Arab Revolt of 1917-1918 and helped shape the modern Middle East. In the 1960s, Lawrence was immortalized in an epic movie of the same name. Yet despite his fame and grandiose title, he remains one of modern history's most controversial and enigmatic figures.

As Malcolm Brown demonstrates in this concise but richly illustrated new biography, Lawrence inspired conflicting responses from those who knew him. One of his superiors, a brigadier in the British forces in Egypt, described Lawrence as a "bumptious young ass," opinionated, disrespectful, and disheveled. At the Paris Peace Conference following World War I, famous Arabist Gertrude Bell called him the "most picturesque figure" in attendance. After Lawrence's death, Winston Churchill offered this glowing eulogy: "In Colonel Lawrence we have lost one of the greatest beings of our time."

So, who was he really? Brown has written at length elsewhere on this subject, first in A Touch of Genius: The Life of T.E. Lawrence (J.M. Dent, London, 1988). and later in T.E. Lawrence: The Selected Letters (Oxford University Press, New York, 1991). However, the best Brown can do within the slim dimensions of his current book is sketch out some of the conclusions he has drawn from his earlier work. …

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