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Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  8,310 Ratings  ·  989 Reviews

New York TimesChristian Science Monitor • NPR • Seattle TimesSt. Louis Dispatch

National Book Critics Circle Finalist -- American Library Association Notable Book

A thrilling and revelatory narrative of one of the most epic and consequential periods in 20th century history – the Arab Revolt and the secret “great game” to contro

Kindle Edition, 618 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Anchor
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Marilynn Larew I'm no specialist on WWI or the Middle East, but I have spent some time studying both topics, and as far as I can tell, it's accrate.
Einar Steinn Valgarðsson Neinei, en hef bara ekki alltaf gefið mér tíma í lesturinn lesturinn fyrir öðru. Svo var náttúrlega RIFF líka, plús lestur í RIF-RAF og svona. Þér er…moreNeinei, en hef bara ekki alltaf gefið mér tíma í lesturinn lesturinn fyrir öðru. Svo var náttúrlega RIFF líka, plús lestur í RIF-RAF og svona. Þér er annars velkomið að fá hana lánaða. Gott stöff.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 20, 2016 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe if more people would have listened to T.E. Lawrence after World War I then an American president wouldn’t be at the UN today speaking on the Syrian crisis as I write this review.

It’s hard reading a history of lost opportunities because I always have an irrational hope that it will somehow end differently this time. (There’s a marketing ploy. Write up a non-fiction book, but then switch to alt-history fiction in the last chapter. “And they all lived happily ever after. The End.”) There are
Aug 23, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anderson's new book Lawrence In Arabia offers the benefit of introducing the cast of characters surrounding Lawrence's exploits, providing important context for the complexity of the era. Unfortunately Anderson never mentions a person critical to the success of the British WWI efforts - Gertrude Bell. She traversed the harrowing Njed Desert as did Lawrence, only she did this years before him. She learned the languages and tribal politics of the region, and her maps were used for all subsequent m ...more
The Middle East arena during WW I, for whatever reason, never interested me that much. What a misguided opinion that has proven to be. Scott Anderson has written an excellent biography on Lawrence and his role in shaping the Middle East as we know it today.

“Lawrence in Arabia” is a new favorite of mine for several reasons. First of all, Lawrence’s exploits are simply amazing. Whether it involves a trek across the desert alone with minimal supplies, blowing up enemy supply trains, attacking enem
Mal Warwick
Sep 27, 2013 Mal Warwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was Lawrence of Arabia the man you thought he was?

Some famous person probably urged us never to delve too deeply into the lives of our heroes since we’re so likely to become cruelly disappointed. In any case, if you’ve cherished a vision of Lawrence of Arabia as one of the few genuine heroes of the 20th Century — a vision probably nourished by David Lean’s film masterpiece — you can’t read Scott Anderson’s study of Lawrence in the context of the First World War in the Middle East and emerge with
Oct 04, 2016 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those wanting to read about Lawrence of Arabia, STOP, read the title again & flip the title about so it reads “War, deceit, imperial folly & the making of the modern middle East” – which features Lawrence IN Arabia – Now don’t be put off by that opening gambit, Just wanted to make it clear as to what the book is about as probably like many folk you would gravitate to this book at the mention of Colonel TE Lawrence AKA Lawrence of Arabia? Yes TE Lawrence is the major player & used ...more
Aug 17, 2014 happy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ww-i
I found this a fascinating look at World War I in the Middle East. Mr. Anderson basically looks at the war through the experiences of four people. They are a British Archeologist - T.E. Lawrence – better known as Lawrence of Arabia, an American oil man - William Yale, a minor German Diplomat – Curt Prufer and finally a Jewish Palestinian agronomist-Aaron Aaronsohn. In telling the story of these four men, the author attempts to explain how World War I created the modern Middle East. While Lawrenc ...more
Steven Peterson
Jul 21, 2013 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book, for the most part well written. While the key character is T. E. Lawrence, the book is formally structured as an examination of the roles of and sometimes interaction among four characters: T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), Curt Prufer (umlaut over the u), Aaron Aaronson, and William Yale.

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. Aa
Jim Coughenour
Sep 02, 2013 Jim Coughenour rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arabia, world-war-1
As I write this review, the horrors of the civil war in Syria fill the headlines and the US is considering yet another disastrous intervention in the Middle East. Scott Anderson, following the celebrated figure of TE Lawrence through the deserts of Arabia, has written an excellent history of how the debacle began – Britain and France scrambling over the "Great Loot" of the collapsing Ottoman Empire; their perfidy toward the Arabs they had encouraged to revolt, including the portentous Balfour De ...more
May 05, 2013 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not the David Lean film of a similar title (although its heft is close to the film's length - should come with a musical entr'acte). It's a magnificently researched tome that follows the famous T.E. Lawrence along with other notable gentlemen whose fingerprints still mark the Middle East.

Opening before the war, and epiloguing after the Paris peace conferences, there is surprisingly little desert warfare in the book. Lawrence doesn't hit his camel-riding stride until early 1917, which giv
Sep 24, 2013 Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I was familiar with a lot of the subject matter, Anderson’s book proved to be quite interesting. I learned a lot about the angle played by Standard Oil of New York (Socony), more or less as amoral war profiteers (a la Krupp in Germany) and, more particularly, the players other than T E Lawrence. They seem to have been every bit as interesting and adventurous as Lawrence, albeit less driven to test themselves physically.

Anderson writes that “Lawrence was able to become ‘Lawrence of Arab
I'll spare y'all the seemingly obligatory, world weary, gently sorrowful musings as to how the Middle East ended in its current predicaments - oh, the humanity! - and concentrate on the book itself.

The writing is generally great, understandable, quick, colorful - but it is a little too long, a little too novelistic in places. Lots of " they gazed out onto the trackless desert..." and "as every traveler in the desert knows..." and a touch of what Barbara Tuchman called the "surely" school o
There is no time in the past one hundred years that the events chronicled in Scott Anderson's epic Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East would not have astonishing and heartbreaking relevance to our understanding of conflicts in every corner of the Middle East, and by the blurry extension of artificially-created borders, South Asia. Yet, to read this book during the week that Israel launched a ground offensive in Gaza, U.S. officials declared th ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Jul 04, 2013 Brandon Forsyth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masterful, engaging historical non-fiction told through a cast of characters that are "too true to be good". A fascinating read! Anderson takes a focus on Lawrence, constantly examining the culturally accepted legends of his story, and also examines three other men in the region at the same time: an American oilman-turned-spy, a German intelligence agent, and a Zionist agronomist. A brilliant and compelling personal narrative that gives the reader a deeper appreciation for the founding of the Mi ...more
Mar 25, 2016 Aloke rated it really liked it
A well written overview of T. E. Lawrence's contributions to British and Arab WW I victories in Western Arabia and Syria. Scott Anderson focuses on the Middle East but he also does a good job of outlining events in Europe. Not knowing much about WWI I was shocked by the scale of the killing. How little did those in power value life to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives in such futile battles? The arrogance which led to such bloodshed is shown to have extended to foreign policy as British a ...more
This book would be a perfect semester-long study for young bucks with an interest in foreign affairs and a willingness to test themselves with knotty problems and harsh realities. Coming into the information with clear eyes and no prior understanding of the histories we have undergone in the past one hundred years, youths that imagine patterning themselves on the legendary stoic T.E. Lawrence will have an education.

Anderson had much primary material at his disposal to create this dense wartime
Aug 22, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lawrence in Arabia, the Making of the Modern Middle East is an outstanding attempt of popular history of the middle east during World War I. By focusing on four men: T.E. Lawrence of the British, Curt Prufer of the Germans, the Zionist Aaron Aaronsohn and the American oil manager, William Yale, the reader is taken down a path that is at once extremely complex, yet because this book is personality driven, made more simpler for contemporary readers.

Scott Anderson, a veteran American war correspond
Jill Hutchinson
This book is not Lawrence of Arabia but instead concerns the activities of Lawrence in Arabia as well as those of several other major characters who were determined to create a Middle East that suited their purposes once the Great War was over.

Britain and France had no intention of allowing their hold on the countries in the East to be broken for independence. They also were determined to break up the faltering Ottoman Empire and so the Sykes-Picot treaty came into being; a semi-secret document
Oct 26, 2013 Ram rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A few years ago I participated in a bike ride in Beer Sheva in the south of Israel. One of the points we stopped at, was the British Cemetery from WW1. This cemetery has 1240 British Empire soldiers buried in it. The leader of our group explained about the place and about the battles near Beer Sheva in WW1. I was quite surprised. What the British army included people from Australia, New Zealand, India and other places? What… the Turkish army that stood against them actually had German officers? ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
The problem about with diplomacy is that the high level decision makers are at a remove from the people on the ground who often have a clearer idea of how to settle an issue of a distant land. This book is about T.E. Lawrence who helped the Arab revolt against the Ottomans during the first world war. The ottomans sided against the allies during WWI and worked with the central powers. T.E. Lawrence who had a very good understanding of the area helped the Arabs in the middle east revolt against th ...more
Author Anderson's book covers several angles of the now-familiar story of T.E. Lawrence. Most of which centrally concentrate on Lawrence's evolving view of the emerging Middle East, in all its eternal wrinkles, and the limitations of the concept of Empire, something very much on the mind of the thoughtful English historian of the day.

After Lawrence, the other characters here are Faisal ibn Hussein, an Arab prince of some consequence; A. Aaronsohn, a Zionist agent and activist living in Palestin
Bryan Alexander
Sep 07, 2016 Bryan Alexander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy, world-war-i
This is a splendid book on WWI, and also about Middle Eastern history, and also about the history of espionage. It sheds a great deal of light on the subsequent century.

Its putative subject is T.E. Lawrence ("of Arabia"), but in revisiting his story, Scott Anderson turns up plot after plot, scheme upon scheme around him. The result enriches our understanding of the period and region, while being a fine read.

Other protagonists anchor the book, giving Lawrence in Arabia more dep
L Fleisig
Sep 03, 2013 L Fleisig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scott Anderson's "Lawrence in Arabia" is a compelling account of T.E. Lawrence (and to a lesser extent his German, American and Zionist counterparts) and the Middle-Eastern world they tried to make during the Great War. Meticulously researched and well-written Anderson takes the reader on a journey that covers much of the Ottoman Empire, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, and what is now Syria and Israel. Given the tumultuous history of the region since the Great War, and particularly since the Arab ...more
Susanna Sturgis
Mar 05, 2015 Susanna Sturgis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, middle-east
It took me months to finish this book, but it wasn't the book's fault. The closer I got to the fall of Damascus (1 October 1918), the larger the Versailles Peace Conference loomed on the horizon, with all the disasters it brought to the Middle East, Europe, and the rest of the world. I didn't want to get there. Whenever I read about this period (which in the course of my life has been fairly often), I want it to end differently. But it never does.

That said, if you want a well-researched, well-wr
Aug 13, 2016 Paula rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book is HEAVILY detailed in every day minutiae of TE Lawrence and his peers. The subtitle "... the making of the modern middle east" is a bit misleading.

Its generally about micro politics, personal experiences, family histories and individual war maneuvers by the main players on the ground during WWI.

There is little information on the sociological, geographical or governmental arrangements in the middle east leading up to WWI or after the war. Instead it is about TE Lawrence and his specif
This is a Goodreads Giveaway. This was a truly fascinating history of T. E. Lawrence as well as a in depth view of social and political extremes in the Middle East. I'll admit it was hard going due to Mr. Anderson's style of writing using multiple person views in a flash-back narrative. At times this became very difficult to understand and follow clearly. Having never seen the movie or read anything about Lawrence before, I was very amazed at the duplicity and underhanded dealings that went on b ...more
Jun 24, 2015 Patremagne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most enigmatic figures in modern history, T.E Lawrence is brought back to life in Anderson's work detailing how Lawrence came to be what he is today in the minds of anyone who has read of him: the British desert warrior with piercing blue eyes who played an integral role in World War I and the Arab Revolt, right down to his depressed, lonely death while suffering from one of the most clear forms of PTSD I've ever encountered.

Superb narration. Hillgartner is one of the best American n
First Second Books
Fascinating background for anyone who’s looking to understand the Middle East better!
Apr 05, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book's greatest contribution to the knowledge of the forces shaking up the old world order at the turn of the twentieth century is its clear telling of the various interests that were jockeying for position of dominance in Middle Eastern affairs. To put it simply, nothing was going to be the same in that region after World War I was over. It may seem that the emphasis on the Great War's killing grounds in France and Russia would diminish the importance of Syria and surrounding territory in ...more
David Quinn
Sep 15, 2016 David Quinn rated it it was amazing
Scott Anderson ably demonstrates his talent for fluid storytelling and interesting phraseology in this tightly circumscribed story of certain events (main stories include the battles of Gallipoli & Aqaba, the Armenian genocide, the rise of Zionism and Lawrence's adventures in Arabia) in Asia before and during WWI. T.E. Lawrence is the star of the book and makes for a solid centerpiece to build a story around. Anderson also weaves the tales of three other men (William Yale, Aaron Aaronsohn an ...more
Karen Bainbridge
Jul 20, 2013 Karen Bainbridge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history and biography lovers but not for faint of heart, heavy reading, not a quick read.
Recommended to Karen by: me.
Shelves: first-read
This book is a broad and tremendously sweeping across time, with T.E.Lawrence being shown as something other than the glorified version of the film 'Lawrence in Arabia'. It shows him as human with all the frailties and follies of men. There are four main characters in this play within a play:
T.E. Lawrence,
educated at Oxford in 1906 undertook a solitary 1000 mile cycling tour of northwest France to see castles and cathedrals in Normandy, he was thought to be 15 when he was 18, he had just stop
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“British generals often gave away in stupidity what they had gained in ignorance.” 4 likes
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