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Lawrence of Arabia: A Histographical Essay

Lawrence of Arabia: A Histographical Essay

Historians agree that Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as T. E. Lawrence, was one of the most important figures in the First World War, especially due to his role in the British army in North Africa and the Middle East. It is agreed that Lawrence, popularly known as “Lawrence of Arabia”, was born in Tremadog in Wales sometimes in August 1888 as an illegitimate child of Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner. Nevertheless, there are different versions of his role, activities and involvement in the First World War, especially his tactics and ability to liaise with Arab forces in North Africa. In this essay, several of versions of the history of Lawrence’s tactics and activities are described.
The most debatable aspects of Lawrence of Arabia include his sexuality, style of dressing and his journey to Damascus, Syria, during the war. In fact, some versions of his history suggest that he wrote a wrong account of his activities to gain fame and recognition in England and the world as a hero.

According to Brown (2005), Lawrence must have created his own myth based on his military and archaeological activities in Egypt during the First World War. The author argues that Lawrence wrote his book “Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A triumph” in 1919 to describe his role and achievements during the WWI, which may have a number of exaggerations. Brown’s analysis seems to be liberal because he seems to contradict earlier versions that presented Lawrence’s writings as based on pure facts.
In his book “A peace to end all peace: The fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Middle East”, Fromkin (2000) argues that Lawrence’s book is a novel with “some historical facts” with an air of romance as well as evidence of strangeness. Like Brown, Fromkin’s work seems to be inclined towards liberalism because it tends to argue against the perceptions that Lawrence was presenting military facts as they happened.

Fromklin (2000) says that Faisal was the real person who brought the idea of taking the port of Akaba, located in Jordan, from land rather than the sea. It is possible that using camels rather than vehicles would be a nice idea because the Egyptians would surprise the Turks defending f the seaport. However, the success of the forces in all the raids could be doubtable.

It is clear that Lawrence played an active role in the defeat of the Turks in Egypt and the Middle East. He argues that even though Lawrence did not change the map of the region, he was the main British officer involved in collaborating with the Arabs to defeat the Turks, including the fall of Damascus. Dowd (2003) says that Lawrence’s position as advisor to Winston Churchill could not have been a mistake, but was rather due to his credentials in the war. It seems that Dowd’s argument is largely neo-conservative in nature because he tends to emphasize on the earlier ideas that whatever Lawrence presented in writing was based on facts.

On the other hand, some aspects of Lawrence’s story could be historically accurate and based on facts rather than personal imaginations of Lawrence. For example, in his book “TE Lawrence: The authorized biography”, Wilson (2005) argues that even though Lawrence had a talent for self-invention, his accounts of the war are historically correct because they correspond to the facts given by the British troops in North Africa and the Middle East during the WWI. It seems that Wilson’s argument is largely neo-conservative in nature because he tends to emphasize on the earlier ideas that whatever Lawrence presented in writing was based on facts.

According to Carchidi (2001), the ‘Seven Pillars’ has some mythologies that resemble Lawrence himself because there is evidence of creation and re-creation of the storyline. From historical facts, Lawrence almost completed his initial draft of the book in 1919 but lost it in a train station in London. However, he hurriedly rewrote the version in 1920 before submitting his manuscripts to the Oxford university press in 1922. Lawrence suffered from a psychological breakdown after submitting the manuscripts. The version that was released in 1926 was not as good as the original manuscript. In fact, the editors admitted that the book’s storyline had to be refurbished to fit Lawrence’s ideas of his activities and roles in North Africa and the Middle East.

According to Brown (2005), Lawrence recovered from the illness and fled London after the release of his book. He served in the Royal Air Force under an assumed name for more than ten years before he was killed in a motorbike accident. Despite his absence from London and inability to submit the final manuscripts of his book, several copies of the book were on sale soon after his death. In fact, Oxford University Press translated the book into more than 15 languages.

In conclusion, the idea of Lawrence of Arabia has changed significantly since the book was written more than one century ago. Over the 20th century, most scholars have argued against some of Lawrence’s stories. Currently, the understanding of biography of Lawrence has changed because various scholars have shown that Lawrence included several fictions in his work to present an interesting storyline for his book. Historians have used different approaches to analyze the story of Lawrence of Arabia. For instance, Fromkin and Brown follow a qualitative examination of the British involvement in Egypt alongside the records from the Ottoman occupation in Egypt. Some evidence has revealed that some of the occasions Lawrence reported in his book do not agree with the stories written by German and Turkish authorities in the Middle East.

Brown, M. (2005). Lawrence of Arabia: the Life, the Legend. London, Thames & Hudson.
Carchidi, V. K. (2001). Creation Out of the Void: the Making of a Hero, an Epic, a world: T. E. Lawrence. Walnut St, PA: University of Pennsylvania.
Dowd, M. (2003, April 9). Dances with Wolfowitz. The New York Times, p. 21.
Fromkin, D. (2000). A Peace to End all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. London: Phoenix Press.
Wilson, J. (2005). Lawrence of Arabia: The authorized biography of T. E. Lawrence. London: Collier Books.

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