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Lawrence of Arabia's War: The Arabs, the British and the Remaking of the Middle East in WWI

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This radically new perspective on T. E. Lawrence, the Arab Revolt, and WWI in the Middle East provides essential insight into today’s violent conflicts.   Archaeologist and historian Neil Faulkner draws on ten years of field research in the Middle East to offer the first truly multidisciplinary history of the conflicts that raged in Sinai, Arabia, Palestine, and Syria duri This radically new perspective on T. E. Lawrence, the Arab Revolt, and WWI in the Middle East provides essential insight into today’s violent conflicts.   Archaeologist and historian Neil Faulkner draws on ten years of field research in the Middle East to offer the first truly multidisciplinary history of the conflicts that raged in Sinai, Arabia, Palestine, and Syria during the First World War. Rarely is a book published that revises our understanding of an entire world region and the history that has defined it. This groundbreaking volume makes just such a contribution.   In Lawrence of Arabia’s War, Faulkner sheds new light on British intelligence officer T. E. Lawrence and his legendary military campaigns. He explores the intersections among the declining Ottoman Empire, the Bedouin tribes, rising Arab nationalism, and Western imperial ambition. Faulkner arrives at a provocative new analysis of Ottoman resilience in the face of modern industrialized warfare. This analysis leads him to reassesses the relative weight of conventional operations in Palestine and irregular warfare in Syria—and thus the historic roots of today’s divided, fractious, war-torn Middle East.


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This radically new perspective on T. E. Lawrence, the Arab Revolt, and WWI in the Middle East provides essential insight into today’s violent conflicts.   Archaeologist and historian Neil Faulkner draws on ten years of field research in the Middle East to offer the first truly multidisciplinary history of the conflicts that raged in Sinai, Arabia, Palestine, and Syria duri This radically new perspective on T. E. Lawrence, the Arab Revolt, and WWI in the Middle East provides essential insight into today’s violent conflicts.   Archaeologist and historian Neil Faulkner draws on ten years of field research in the Middle East to offer the first truly multidisciplinary history of the conflicts that raged in Sinai, Arabia, Palestine, and Syria during the First World War. Rarely is a book published that revises our understanding of an entire world region and the history that has defined it. This groundbreaking volume makes just such a contribution.   In Lawrence of Arabia’s War, Faulkner sheds new light on British intelligence officer T. E. Lawrence and his legendary military campaigns. He explores the intersections among the declining Ottoman Empire, the Bedouin tribes, rising Arab nationalism, and Western imperial ambition. Faulkner arrives at a provocative new analysis of Ottoman resilience in the face of modern industrialized warfare. This analysis leads him to reassesses the relative weight of conventional operations in Palestine and irregular warfare in Syria—and thus the historic roots of today’s divided, fractious, war-torn Middle East.

30 review for Lawrence of Arabia's War: The Arabs, the British and the Remaking of the Middle East in WWI

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A dense, thorough history of the Arab Revolt. The narrative is vivid and comprehensive and moves along at a crisp pace, while the maps are plentiful and helpful. Faulkner describes the politics and cultural context of Lawrence’s exploits, and argues that the Arab Revolt was essentially a failure but that it did have a lasting impact on the region. He describes the ethnic makeup of the Ottoman and British armies and how the war in the Middle East was often fought by armies of imperial subjects, al A dense, thorough history of the Arab Revolt. The narrative is vivid and comprehensive and moves along at a crisp pace, while the maps are plentiful and helpful. Faulkner describes the politics and cultural context of Lawrence’s exploits, and argues that the Arab Revolt was essentially a failure but that it did have a lasting impact on the region. He describes the ethnic makeup of the Ottoman and British armies and how the war in the Middle East was often fought by armies of imperial subjects, along with the often contradictory objectives of the British. Faulkner also describes the Ottoman execution of Arab nationalists in Beirut, and how afterwards “the standard of modern Arab nationalism passed into the hands of tribal reactionaries of the desert, where it would amount to little more than traditional Bedouin raiding inflated by foreign gold and guns.” Faulkner does a great job describing the war experience of the common soldier. He also describes the various ways that the war did, and did not, change the situation in the region. He also suggests that Lawrence may have been mentally ill. The only issues are minor, such as a few incorrect dates here and there, or maps if varying detail. The title also suggests that the narrative analyzes the wider war, but it often seems to focus mainly on Lawrence and his own experiences. There is also little discussion of the many atrocities committed in this theater. Faulkner also suggests that Arab nationalism was just a British contrivance, although this doesn’t entirely convince. A well-written, well-researched work.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fraser

    This was an exceptional read for me. Both the historical detail which although complex was never totally overwhelming, and the lead character observations are superb. Putting Lawrence into his much wider context was a great way of presenting the war in the Middle East (so that which seemed familiar now became far more nuanced). Faulkner uses Lawrence as the centrepiece but also brings in the experiences of the common soldier from both sides of the war. He manages to show the complexity of Lawren This was an exceptional read for me. Both the historical detail which although complex was never totally overwhelming, and the lead character observations are superb. Putting Lawrence into his much wider context was a great way of presenting the war in the Middle East (so that which seemed familiar now became far more nuanced). Faulkner uses Lawrence as the centrepiece but also brings in the experiences of the common soldier from both sides of the war. He manages to show the complexity of Lawrence by bringing in the various other lead protagonists in both warfare and strategy. As much as he is hampered by a lack of access to Turkish archives, it still makes for a very complete and detailed history and certainly not as dry as it could have been without this approach. Really enjoyable, but requires a thoughtful and concentrated approach in sections to follow.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bobby D

    Let me begin by stating that this is NOT a biography of TE Lawrence (of Arabia). Faulkner uses Lawrence as a metaphor hook to both market the book and as a euphemism for the British military campaign on the Eastern front in the Middle East during WW 1. Lawrence is used as a symbol of the imperialism of the war. The book mostly details the actual battles fought between the Ottoman Empire (and Germany) and the British (using mostly Australian and Indian troops) with a minor role played by the Fren Let me begin by stating that this is NOT a biography of TE Lawrence (of Arabia). Faulkner uses Lawrence as a metaphor hook to both market the book and as a euphemism for the British military campaign on the Eastern front in the Middle East during WW 1. Lawrence is used as a symbol of the imperialism of the war. The book mostly details the actual battles fought between the Ottoman Empire (and Germany) and the British (using mostly Australian and Indian troops) with a minor role played by the French. It is excellent at giving a ground view via individual soldiers’ comments and observations of conditions. I did appreciate that Faulkner like others believes Lawrence’s memoir (Seven Pillars of Wisdom) to be true and supported by historical and archaeological facts (some early biographers have attacked Lawrence saying he made many things up). I found the book quite interesting and enjoyable to read. Since I am not usually drawn to military books that outline battles, fronts, attacks and retreats I was surprised how fascinating I found Faulkner’s book. He covers first in a very perceptive way the British defeat at Gallipoli and its loss of the British Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force (Indian troops) south of Baghdad (where Lawrence was called upon by London to try and bribe an Ottoman commander into letting the captured British Army escape.) Without adding extensive length to this review I will leave it to future readers to discover the step by step, battle by battle, eastern front campaign. Highlights being the battles fought to save the Suez Canal, the capture of Palestine and Jerusalem and the final big push in to Damascus all under the command of General Edmund Allenby who focused on the Eastern half of the campaign along the sea while his subordinate T E Lawrence assisting the Arab revolt fighting a guerrilla campaign in the interior (which mainly focused on the destruction of the hijaz railway). The take away the general reader will have to this book will be how dogged the Ottoman soldier was. They were thought to be pushovers but were nothing of the sort. The battles on the Eastern half of the campaign and even Lawrence's Arabs fought under awful conditions… heat, dust, insects… in addition to much hand to hand combat. The British using mostly Indian troops at the end made great use of Calvary charges, airplanes, and the Arabs rear guard campaign. Towards the end the Arabs tied up almost 2/3's of the Ottoman troops and completely destroyed their railway system. The Ottoman ethnic cleansing genocide of the Armenians also included many middle class and educated Arabs. This Faulkner says this left mostly the Bedouin who were ridged Islamic fundamentalist to fight in the Arab revolt. It was a testimony to Lawrence’s skill, patience and leadership to find ways to unit these un-modern troops. I did find Faulkner’s description of Lawrence to be a bit over the top. No doubt Lawrence probably suffered from post-traumatic disorder (not so diagnosed in WW1) but to say that Lawrence suffered mostly over a quilt complex finding himself torn between British and French imperialism and their broken promises to Arab nationalism is hard to believe. More likely Lawrence was a great intellect, shy, and somewhat a misfit which gave him great empathy to listen and accept the Arabs as they were and not as many perceived them. This mostly is his legacy. For those unfamiliar or have not read a biography of Lawrence I suggest you do so before reading Faulkner’s book. There are several good biographies but the most complete is by Jeremy Wilson who wrote the Authorized Biography in 1989. I just found out this week that Jeremy Wilson died on April 2nd of this week. His will be a great loss. Both he and his wife Nicole have run Castle Hill Press publishing limited edition deluxe editions of Lawrence’s work. (Note: I do realize that Mr. Faulkner is a Marxist historian but I don't think this impacts the books narrative with the exception of some nonsense he writes in his epilogue. Here he criticizes the Arab nationalist for not being more grounded like the Russian "Reds" were in fighting the "white" Russians. However interesting this is just out of context with the rest of the book.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nick Pengelley

    This is one of the those wonderful - rare - books, where having read 50 pages, you check the back and think, "No! Only 850 pages to go!" The research has left no stone unturned (it is to be hoped Mr. Faulkner will eventually gain access to the Turkish archives, and so do full justice to the untold other side of the story), and the telling leaves nothing to be desired - gripping, page-turning, stuff. It was especially good to get the detailed story of Allenby's invasion of Palestine. So often one This is one of the those wonderful - rare - books, where having read 50 pages, you check the back and think, "No! Only 850 pages to go!" The research has left no stone unturned (it is to be hoped Mr. Faulkner will eventually gain access to the Turkish archives, and so do full justice to the untold other side of the story), and the telling leaves nothing to be desired - gripping, page-turning, stuff. It was especially good to get the detailed story of Allenby's invasion of Palestine. So often one is left with the sense that, after the cavalry charge at Beersheba, the taking of Jerusalem was pretty much a cake walk. Mr. Faulkner leaves no doubt that it was anything but a horror story for most of the troops involved - near starvation, without water for days, enduring shocking cold with no shelter and in summer clothing. A superb addition to the canon.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Len Blasiol

    A detailed and well-documented account of Allied operations against the Ottoman Turks in the Sinai, Syria, and Arabia. The author has expertly analyzed a vast volume of information and presented it in a very accessible form. This book is a "must-read" for all serious students of the First World War.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mark Walker

    The most interesting bits were the counterpoint between this arena of WW1 and the other arenas. I am surprised by how much detail about battle formations was in this book. There isn't actually a lot about Lawrence. Editing errors started to appear in the later stages which suggests this was dashed out in a rush using material that the writer was familiar with, but had got behind the publishers deadline. It also has the feel of using the Lawrence name as a sales ploy. There was not a great deal o The most interesting bits were the counterpoint between this arena of WW1 and the other arenas. I am surprised by how much detail about battle formations was in this book. There isn't actually a lot about Lawrence. Editing errors started to appear in the later stages which suggests this was dashed out in a rush using material that the writer was familiar with, but had got behind the publishers deadline. It also has the feel of using the Lawrence name as a sales ploy. There was not a great deal of time spent showing the influence Lawrence had on this war. The betrayal of the Arabs at the end feels rushed. One thing that came across, and I am sure the writer meant the reader to feel, was the place names are so redolent of the tragic betrayal of the Palestinians

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lukas Evan

    I liked the movie better.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brayden

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shuja Toor

  10. 4 out of 5

    George Gadd

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dr

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Beadles

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susan Foss

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anthony L Zyrek

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erik Florin

  16. 5 out of 5

    Richard Scheiber

  17. 4 out of 5

    Meaghan Buchanan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Koba Kay

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Vestey

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gil Hahn

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul Hulatt

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dion

  25. 4 out of 5

    Toghrul

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anne Cupero

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda Bauer

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nion

  30. 4 out of 5

    Judith

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