Biography of T.E. Lawrence of Arabia Part 1

About the biography of British soldier T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia history of his part in World War I and the middle east.

T. E. LAWRENCE (Great Britain, W.W. I)

The film Lawrence of Arabia portrayed T. E. Lawrence as a fascinating, tall, romantic Robin Hood of the desert. History shows that he was 5'5 1/2" tall, a hopeless liar, a masochist, and a British imperialist--but no less fascinating.

The legend of Lawrence arose during W. W. I, a war that was a great disappointment to many people since it was neither the brief nor the glorious adventure they had expected. But in the midst of the prolonged slaughter there appeared a knightly Englishman leading Arabs in revolt against their Turkish masters (who were on Germany's side). At stake was control of the Suez Canal and access to the oil which had been discovered a few years earlier.

Lawrence gained his extensive knowledge of the Middle East through his archaeological expeditions as a young man, and he was scouting the area for British Intelligence even before war broke out. When it did, he influenced the British Foreign Office to support Prince Faisal as the principal Arabian military leader. He became Faisal's chief adviser and companion, in the process assuming the robes of an Arabian prince and taking a leading role in guerrilla raids against the Turks and blowing up their railroad.

Lawrence gained his influence with the Arabs in various ways. First, he was able to immerse himself almost completely in the part of an Arab. Tom Beaumont, his machine gunner, recalled, "He was incredibly tough and made a point of doing anything the Arabs could do and doing it better. He could ride a camel faster than most of them. He could run alongside and swing into the saddle--about 9' from the ground--while it was moving, and he could do it more easily than all the Arabs. The Arabs accepted him because of this."

Another of Lawrence's persuasive tools was gold. The British Government let him liberally distribute gold coins which captured the hearts and, at least temporarily, the loyalty of many of the nomadic tribesmen.

The Arab leaders were equally entranced by another promise Lawrence held out to them: independence once the war was over. It was a pledge Lawrence could not and did not intend to keep. As he later admitted, "I risked the fraud, on my conviction that Arab help was necessary to our cheap and speedy victory in the East, and that better we win and break our word than lose."

At the war's end, the major colonial powers began what Woodrow Wilson called "the whole disgusting scramble for the Middle East." It was revealed that, during the war, Britain and France had secretly agreed to carve up the Middle East between themselves. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 Lawrence held one of the more progressive views: that the British should at 1st control the Middle East, with the Arabs eventually attaining the status of a self-governing commonwealth of the British Empire. He had a deep hatred of the French and lobbied unsuccessfully to keep them out of the area altogether. In the end, Arab hopes for independence were betrayed, with Great Britain and France sharing the spoils.

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