T. E. Lawrence: true and false (an arab view)

Lucy Ladikoff

Much has been written of Lawrence's fame as the great liberator and leader of the Arab Revolt against the Turks. Such a panegyric was duly extracted from Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Though I do not at all mean to underrate Lawrence's contribution to the Arab Revolt, I am only trying to evaluate the facts and see how far they correspond to the visionary and romanticized descriptions which Lawrence gave in his book. He presents it as if it was the documentary story of the Arab Revolt. Subhi al_ Umary is one of the Arab leaders who personally knew Lawrence and who lived the Arab Revolt as an Arab. He had a very critical viewpoint of T.E. Lawrence and sees Seven Pillars of Wisdom "as a story about the Arab Revolt and not the story of the Arab Revolt" (1). Lawrence's well written and romanticized Seven Pillars of Wisdom could not be much appreciated by those who lived and suffered that tragic part of Arab history, namely the Arab Revolt. "Lawrence wrote his book for Westerners who are used to read the Thousand and one night Tales and who believed every thing Lawrence wrote; for they did not know the truth about the Arab Revolt. Westerners were always fascinated by those oriental stories especially those about chivalry, Arab poems, the Sheikhs, the desert and its thirst, the arab horses and camels, and the tamarisk oases" (2).


Lawrence in his "Secret Despatches" (3) gives the impression that the growth of national feeling in the period of the Arab Revolt was "sudden". According to G. Antonius, the Arab historian, the National movement in the Arab world opens in Syria in 1847 with the foundation of a modest literary society under American patronage. And though Muhammad-`Ali's intentions to establish an Arab Empire were merely a personal ambition, he could awake in the Arab minds what then could be called "public concern". But his son Ibrahim, as the French Baron de Boislecomte, who paid him a visit after Ibrahim's conquest of Syria, relates that he (Ibrahim) "made no secret of his intention to revive Arab national consciousness and restore Arab nationhood, to instill into the Arabs a real sense of patriotism, and to associate them in the fullest measure with the government of the future empire; that he regarded his father's ideas as narrow and merely imperialistic" (4). Muhammad-`Ali was called to Egypt by the Sultan of Turkey to put an end to Bonaparte's invasion. The history of Egypt for the first half of the 19th century is virtually the story of this one man. Founder of the dynasty that was until 1952 still ruling, Muhammad-`Ali had been rightly called the father of this country. It is with his plans to set up an Arab Empire in 1799 that a consciousness of what is known as "public concern" was born among all the Arabs. Though Nationalism in its real modern meaning was still far away from the Arab mind, they still had that common feeling for free Arab countries; revolts against the Turks had started long before "that" Arab Revolt; the expulsion of the Turks from Syria was not a new idea which Lawrence is thought to have brought to the Arabs (though no one can deny him his important role and great contribution to the Arab Revolt); Ibrahim, Muhammad-`Ali's son, was sent to liberate Syria from the Turks and was supported and well assisted by Arab inhabitants as early as 1832, more than three quarters of a Century before Allenby's campaign. Though in both cases, the military advance had been heralded by promises of political emancipation, Muhammad-`Ali and his son had since then advocated the Arab national revival, though at that time, Arab national consciousness was non-existent. M.`Ali was the first to wake the idea of an Arab Empire which, for the first time, presented itself in world politics, and on that occasion, at any rate, Lord Palmerston took a stand against it. (5) Muhammad-`Ali's plans failed for many reasons; the principal ones were: England's hostility, the non-existence of Arab national consciousness and the lack of anything approaching national solidarity in the Arab world. Now the events which brought the Arabs to war against the Turks on the British side do constitute part of our contemporary history. Yet, in order to really understand, contrary to the western or european public views, how the Arab Revolt took roots, and how the Arabs decided to fight on the British side against the Turks, some historical facts are hence necessary to know. With Muhammad-`Ali's son, Ibrahim, the Arab revival gets to a further step. In addition to military schools, he founded large colleges in which the students, who were all Moslems, received a stipend as well as their full board and lodging; besides, Ibrahim's rule was characterized by his tolerance in a country where sectarian troubles had always been dominant. Eli Smith's activities in Syria had far reaching results especially after the removal of his American mission's printing press from Malta to Beirut. This was of great use to the Arabic language. "Though it was not the missionaries themselves who worked to save the language from its decay, still it was their means, such as schools and new educational systems, printing press equipped to issue books in the Arabic language, and their money that were at the service of the great, enlightened and intellectual Arabs of the period." (6) Eli Smith and his American colleagues asked for the assistance of Nasif al-Yazegi and Butrus al-Bustani, the most important Arab figures who dominated the intellectual life of the period. The novelty of al-Yazegi's preaching was all the more striking as it was addressed to Arabs of all creeds, to Christians as much as to Moslems, and it urged them, at a time when religious fanaticism was still violent, to remember the inheritance they had in common and build up a future of brotherhood on its foundation. One of Yazegi's sons was to utter the first call to Arab national emancipation. It was on al-Yazegi and al-Bustani's shoulders that the foundation stone for the Arab revival was built. After the rising of 1860, accompanied as it was by a savage massacre of Christians in Damascus and Lebanon, al-Bustani published the first political journal ever published in the country, which was mainly devoted to the preaching of harmony between different creeds and of union in the pursuit of knowledge. He preached the death of fanaticism and the birth of ideals held in common, a platitude, perhaps, but one that Syria had not heard before and which contained the germ of the national idea. For years European statesmen had viewed with greedy interest the weakened body of the Ottoman Empire. Everyone was anxious to know who would govern Constantinople when Turkey collapsed. After Sultan `Abdu 'l-Hamid's deposition by the Young Turks (a movement of young Turks and Arabs in favour of necessary reforms in the government), for sometime, the subject nationalities, including the Arabs, were given a measure of freedom; but then Enver, the leader of the Young Turks, terrified at the power of the forces which he had let loose, reversed his policy particularly against the Arabs. Arab deputies were scattered and driven away from their countries, Arabic societies forbidden and even the Arabic language suppressed. Years before the coming of T.E. Lawrence to the Arab world, Faisal, the second son of al-Sherif Hussein, had been thinking of a revolution against the Turks, having seen his best friends led to the scaffold by the Turks. (7) Now when World War I broke out in 1914, the Allies asked the Arab's help to get rid of Turkey which had been ruling the Arab world since 1517 and which was fighting against them on the German side. Surely al-Sherif Hussein as well as the rest of the Arabs would have preferred the Turks who were Moslems to a Christian ally or government, " the Arabs believing, rightly, that there would be little sense in their helping to defeat the Turks if this merely meant exchanging one master for another". (8) Had it not been for the bad conditions which the Turks imposed upon the Arabs: famine in the Arab peninsula and Syria; the murder by hundreds of the best Arab leaders and intellectuals; and the anti-Arab policy which Turkey went on applying; al-Sherif Hussein would not have taken up arms against Turkey, a Muslim country.(9) In such a critical position the British "put on lamb's cloth" to persuade al-Hussein to take up arms against Turkey, promising to help the Arabs in settling their problems, and in recognizing the independence of their countries. Lord Kitchener, Secretary for War, telegraphed Ronald Storrs, Oriental Secretary to the British High Commissioner in Egypt, requesting him to convey the following message to al-Sherif Hussein ibn `Ali(Sherif of Mecca): "Germany has now bought the Turkish Government with gold!.. if the Arab Nation assist England in this war, England will guarantee that no intervention will take place in Arabia and will give Arabs every assistance against external foreign aggression". (10) Consequently, on the 14th of July, al-Sherif Hussein sent his well known memorandum to Sir Henry McMahon, British High Commissioner in Egypt; he declared the desire of the Arabs to obtain full independence and unity for their territories and asked the British to help the Arabs achieve this by force of arms. (11) Thus, a British-Arab War started against the Turks with Lawrence as a liaison-officer between his country's statesmen and the Arabs.


According to Subhi-al- Umary, Lawrence presented the Arabs as hoards of illiterate and savage Bedouins, who depended on British gold; and himself (Lawrence) as the leader who organized and led those Bedouins against the Turks. And though Lawrence didn't literally say so, yet any one who reads his books thinks that Lawrence was "the organizing mind, the planning person and the leader for most of the Arab Revolt campaigns, especially the Damascus campaign; while Faisal and the other Arab leaders were only subject persons who obeyed his orders". (12) Sulaiman Mousa and al- Umary refute Lawrence's view in this regard and express their regret that no Arab leader, among those who participated in the famous Arab Revolt, wrote a book or books to point out Lawrence's "lies". It is the Arabs who took up arms to defend their own land, it's they who felt the need for freedom and decided to pay for it. al- Umary goes on and accuses the Zionists to have distorted the facts on the Arab revolt laying their claims on Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Those detractors of the Arab Revolt show that the revolt was a Bedouin Revolt which depended on British gold and Lawrence as its leader, and those Bedouins were just savage tribes with no needs of any kinds, no national interest, nor were they worthy of independence "they were only thieves and with no aims other than plunder, looting, murder and vengeance for their family grudges. They are only enslaved and conditioned to be only servants for their sheiks, and their sheiks, in their turn, are enslaved to the love of money" (13). al- Umary sorrowfully says that the westerners have come to know about the Arab Revolt, after Lawrence's accounts on it. And like 'Ala'-el-Deen's Lamp, Lawrence fascinated the world with his tales about the Desert and its life; Lawrence though, knew that, for the Arabs, the Revolt has never been an adventure or an amusing tale written to draw fame and the attention of the world; it is a sad story for the Arabs who paid with their lives for a noble ideal and a sublime end which they never achieved, and instead they were betrayed by their closest friend and ally. And here is Lawrence entertaining himself with all the incidents of this sad story, trying to build up his fame on the Arab leader's shoulders so that, after the publication of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, he became the uncrowned king of Arabia. "No one all over the world would understand the Arab Revolt if it were not associated with the name of Lawrence". (14) al- Umary goes on to say that the Arab Revolt was carried out by a good number of the Arab intellectuals, that some worked among the illiterate Bedouins in their settlements, that some were Syrians, others Egyptians and others Saudi-Arabians. They were scribes who worked for the Emirs, others were doctors, chemists, and politicians; others were trained to blow up the railways, trains and stations, and those trained Arabs had to train their fellow men in the regiment. al- Umary mentions the name of the most famous fifty-one Arab intellectuals who worked for the Revolt and who, when the war was over, worked every one in his own field; some were famous politicians and ministers. al- Umary says that he mentioned all those names to prove that the Arab Revolt was carried out by hundreds of educated and cultivated Arabs as well as illiterate ones. (15) Actually in Seven Pillars of Wisdom Lawrence talks about al-Hussein and how highly cultured he and his sons were. Lawrence found `Ali, Hussein's third son, "very much a creature after his own heart, an intellectual in a wilderness of illiteracy, thoroughly well read in law and religion, honest and direct to the point that he failed to see dishonesty in others..."(16) Hafet Wahbah (17), a moderate Arab historian, affirms that the Arab Revolt was thought of by the educated and intellectual Arab leaders themselves, who established secret societies to discuss the plans of the Revolt years before Lawrence's coming to the Arab world. Hafet Wahbah mentions the names of those who were with Lawrence himself during the Arab war, saying that they were the ones who in 1912 replied in all Arab papers, magazines and periodicals to the Turkish accusations and abuses. They aimed at awakening the Arab consciousness and reviving the national spirit by establishing centres everywhere in the Arab world and preparing the people to the Great Revolt.

1. The Arabs never trusted foreigners:

T.E. Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, claims that he was treated as if he was an Arab, and that the Arabs took him for a Syrian. If Lawrence put on Arab dress, this doesn't mean, for the Arabs, that he was one of them. A part from the fact that it was more than obvious that Lawrence was not an Arab, the colour of his skin, his blue eyes, his accent, could hardly be said to have been really Arabic. Besides, a Bedouin doesn't recognize any one as his leader, not even if the latter were a king, for he (the Bedouin) has no trust in foreigners, unless this leader was the sheikh of his own tribe. And as Philby also says, a Bedouin, doesn't have a great or sincere veneration but for his akarem (generous man) i.e. sheikhs, sherifs and courageous leaders, all the others he puts on the same level. (18) So Lawrence's claims that the Arabs behaved to him as though he was really one of the leaders and that a Bedouin kissed his hand are just fantastic tales and al- Umary says "lies". (19) Abdullah ibn al-Hussein himself said in his Memoirs that he was not glad to receive Lawrence in his camp,for he ( Abdullah) knew the negative effect Lawrence had on the tribes, and when Lawrence visited his camp the tribes' chiefs murmured and complained against this newcomer while Abdullah tried to convince them that Lawrence was there only for the demolition work of the railways; though `Abdullah's words had their bearing on those men, they still did not like the foreigner's presence among them. Besides, Abdullah had forbidden Lawrence from roaming around among his tribes. (20) al- Umary did not like the description Lawrence gave when he visited `Abdullah's camp saying that Lawrence had no right to attribute such harsh epithets to Abdullah who thought that Lawrence was interfering in things that were no concern of his. (21) While Lawrence found that Abdullah lacked the vitality that would create the flame in the Arab heart; that he was too comfortable, too much inclined to humour and too good a talker to be able or willing to demand of himself or his men that effort that stretched up to, and even beyond the limits of endurance; that he spent his day reading newspapers, eating, sleeping, and teasing a certain Muhammad Hassan. (22) The real reason which made Lawrence turn to Faisal is the fact that Zaid and `Ali (23) were far less friendly to the British and more decisive and sure of their ideas than Faisal. (24) Striking is the difference between Lawrence and al- `Umary's opinion of `Ali's character. Lawrence believed `Ali, to whom he declares to have taken a great fancy, to be a pleasant gentleman, conscientious and dignified. "He was bookish, learned in law and religion and pious almost to fanaticism. He was too conscious of his high heritage to be ambitious". Lawrence thought `Ali could be the leader of the Revolt if "Faisal should turn out to be no prophet". (25) al- Umary on the other hand, says that `Ali was too weak a character, spent most of his time exhibiting his talents, ambitions and ostentations, was very influenceable and did not like books and knew little about religion. al- Umary thinks that Lawrence had thought of `Ali as a leader should Faisal have proved unfit to be one, for it would have been much easier for the British to deal with him than with someone as strong-minded as Abdullah or his father al-Hussein. (26) Lawrence found in Faisal what he was looking for "the flame of enthusiasm" but al- Umary says he was the easiest to direct and the most elastic and influenceable and the most accessible for the British. (27) al-Hussein on the other hand, is the one who mostly believed in the Arabs' right for freedom and independence, he believed in an Arab rebellion against the Turks to gain national freedom and liberty; he, Lawrence says "was outwardly so clean and gentle-mannered as to seem weak; but this appearance had a crafty policy, deep ambition, and an un-Arabian foresight, strength of character and obstinacy". (28) According to the Arab historian Hafet Wahbah, the real reason which made it difficult for Lawrence to deal with al-Hussein is the fact that the latter did not like and suspected Lawrence, and though Lawrence described al-Sherif to be a limited-minded old man, al-Hussein was so inwardly clean and maybe idealistic that he could not foresee the British double game but was so hopeful that every complicated problem would be solved as soon as the war was over; he believed that England would work for his and the Arabs' good according to the established agreement. al-Hussein's good will made him wholeheartedly believe that England would fulfil its promises to the Arabs. (29) al-Hussein's greatest fault was that he didn't know the truth about the real intentions of the British and thought that "great men" would never betray their friends. During the two years of the Revolution, al-Hussein clearly stated his refusal of British interference in Arab affairs. Anis Sayeg says that al-Hussein never liked Lawrence, and Lawrence in turn describes him to have been an old obstinate man, while al-Hussein was only jealous for the Arab land and suspicious of Lawrence. al-Hussein was too clear in his hostility against the Turks, he wanted to defend Mecca and the Arab lands at all costs. He was against every Turkish system for reform, and his foresight made him understand that the Turks wanted only to strengthen their rule in the Arab world. (30)

2. Disorganization among Arab tribes:

In the brief reconnaissance made after having visited Faisal's camp, Lawrence found the men in "high spirits", because soldiers were being more handsomely paid than ever before and their families were being fed as well by the Sherif's bounty. (31) Before the Revolt, Bedouins never felt the necessity to fight but for self-preservation and when they did they were never paid by anybody. It was the law of the desert and the nature of their social life which made them fight their enemies, who sometimes were the neighbouring tribes. The winner, as was the habit, used to take the caravans and the camels of the defeated tribe and this was not considered plunder or looting, as Lawrence thought, but the natural payment for their fighting. As for the British gold paid to the Arabs during the war, the Arab leaders and many others in the Revolt accepted and understood it as the British obligation in the British-Arab deal, many others, especially politically unprepared Bedouins considered the gold as the pay for an unnecessary fight. Thus it was natural that these Bedouins felt more delighted at being paid than aware of the necessity of a Revolt. Besides, Lawrence has forgotten that it is typical of these men's race not to be much concerned for the future and its problems and dangers and that these men are "too free" to understand the English conception of a soldier. The Bedouins have always fought in guerilla warfare and succeeded in destroying many of the Turkish quarters. A Bedouin would feel anonymous in a regiment or in an army and could never be able to succeed in fighting his enemy; in a small group the Bedouin feels more free, and this freedom is a psychological need that a Bedouin must always feel, especially if you want him to be what a brave soldier could be in an organized unit of the army. "The value of the tribes is defensive only, and their real sphere is guerilla warfare. They are intelligent and very lively, almost reckless, but too individualistic to endure commands, or fight in line, or help each other". (32) No organization could ever be obtained in an army if this army, as was the case in `Abdullah's camp, has four thousand men but only three machine-guns, and ten inefficient mountain guns. "The Arab army was short of everything: of food, money and guns". (33) Actually Sulaiman Mousa (34) affirms that al-Sherif had no regular forces. He depended for the success of his Revolt on tribesmen armed with nothing but obsolete rifles which were useless for modern warfare. He had no artillery or machine-guns. He therefore sought the help of his allies. The British despatched a 4-5 howitzer battery, four mountain screw-guns, eight machine-guns and about four thousand rifles. These statistics would indicate that the British were quick in fulfilling their obligations to the revolt; but, as it turned out, most of these weapons had been rejected by the British army as too old to be effective. Nuri al-Sa id stated that the greatest difficulties he faced upon joining the Revolt grew from "the suspicions with which the Allies viewed us.... Upon reaching Jedda, he supervised the opening of the cases which were expected to hold a number of guns only to discover that the guns had been sent in pieces, several of which were missing. Sights, for instance, were not available; there were no written instructions on the method of use, nor did the British send any experts or instructors". (35) (35a) Another reason for such ill-organization is the nature of the war which the Arabs had to wage. The Arab Revolt was an individual campaign, which made Lawrence's personal magnetism and genius more apparent. While on the Western Front the enemy was a whole great army made of hundreds of British fighting against hundreds of Germans, who fought only because their governments sent them like wild animals behind their prey, in the desert the case was not the same for the Arabs; the enemy was a man, a single man you could see. A Bedouin could smell the Turkish presence, he could see his face and sometimes even recognize him. The fact that the British wanted to win the war on the international level was not of great importance to the Bedouin; he cared about his "personal" enemy and merely wanted to defeat him in order to earn his freedom in spite of the old tribal tactics, the only means the Bedouin had in his war (36)


1. The Archaeological Camouflage:

As Lawrence was keenly interested in Archaeology, D. G. Hogarth, a Fellow of Magdallen College and Curator of the Ashmolean Museum, turned Lawrence's interests in the direction of the Middle East (actually Lawrence's thesis for his degree was about the architecture of the Crusades). Lawrence's first trip in the Euphrates zone was meant to have had a scientific purpose, particularly the trip to Carchemish, the ancient city on the banks of the Euphrates where Lawrence was sent by G. Hogarth as an assistant in an expedition sponsored by the British Museum in 1910. (37) In February 1911, Lawrence started off to Carchemish with Hogarth. From this date until June 1914, he was back in England only at Christmas 1912 and for two weeks in July 1913. "It has been suggested that during this period he and Hogarth were in fact undercover agents, spying on the German bridge building operations across the Euphrates. Then in 1910, when the Berlin-Bagdad railway reached the Euphrates, there came a sudden revival of British interest in Carchemish. Sound archaeological reasons for this were conveniently to hand..." (38) The British arrived as the German engineers were constructing a bridge over the Euphrates, and Hogarth's headquarters were half a mile from the Carchemish side. In January 1913, Lawrence and Leonard Woolley (39) became members of the digging team led by Captain S. F. Newcombe in the Sinai; Lawrence still had an archaeological cover; in fact he states "...we are obviously only meant as red herrings, to give an archaeological colour to a political job." (40) Having enjoyed this kind of work, Lawrence asked Newcombe about a war job; the latter could only put his name together with that of Woolley on a waiting list. (41) Lawrence feeling bored as he waited at home in Oxford for a message from Newcombe, wrote to Hogarth for help. Hogarth was a member of the Royal Geographic Society and found Lawrence a job on the geographical section of the General Staff, drawing a large scale map of Sinai. In December 1914, Cairo Department of Intelligence confirmed Lawrence as Liaison officer with Faisal; though not directly as he hoped, he still was subject to his colonels' orders for every movement. When the news first broke about al-Hussein's rising against the Turks, Lawrence did everything possible to be hated by his superiors so that he might be sent away to join the Arab Revolt. (42) Lawrence's stroke of luck laid in his opposition to the French Colonel Edouard Bremond's project; Bremond together with the British General Wingate were in favour of regularizing the Arab Revolt by pouring in large numbers of French and British troops for a confrontation with the Turks believing that the Bedouins could not cope with the Turkish regular soldiers. (43) Since the idea of sending troops for such an adventure did not appeal to the British in General Head Quarters and since it was highly unlikely to get such authority from London where the new government of Mr. Lloyd George - never a great partisan of the Arab cause - was more worried about the situation on the western front in Europe, a report from a "man-on-the-spot" who, one must admit, understood the Arabs' sensitiveness and jealousy for their land, was welcomed and considered useful to counteract Wingate's and Colonel Bremond's highly inconvenient and over-enthusiastic proposals. (44) Lawrence's understanding of Arabs' psychology made him realize that the war should have to be an irregular one, fought mainly by the Arabs themselves, but with the Allies furnishing arms, gold and food. Bremond said later that Lawrence was against regularization because it would have ended his own romantic and independent role. (45) And thus Lawrence's dream of being in direct contact with the Arabs came true.


Lawrence's romantic character made him yearn for the freedom of the Desert which had bewitched him and made him confuse the reality of the War and of his role as a British Officer in it, with dreams and fantasy. This could be easily understood by reading either the Seven Pillars of Wisdom or The Wilderness of Zin. (46) Thus Lawrence's ambiguous role was clear from the very beginning. In fact when writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom Lawrence had to face the fact of this ambiguity: "was it only and all a dishonourable fraud?". How much should he tell? Should he say that the British would have promised the Arabs almost anything in order to get them to revolt? Should Lawrence say in Seven Pillars of Wisdom that, because he knew Britain had no intention of giving the Arabs their complete independence his part in the plot was a shameful one? Lawrence surprisingly admits this in the first Chapter of Seven Pillars of Wisdom which was then suppressed on the advice of George Bernard Shaw "for political reasons"; (48) it remained unpublished until 1939, when it was included in Oriental Assembly Records. It was reinstated in English editions of Seven Pillars of Wisdom in 1940. "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". (49) It is well known that Lawrence was a visionary person. He also had so much imaginative power that it became almost impossible for him not to create fantastic events even in describing facts. His writing in a beautiful and romanticized style was influenced by Charles Daughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta, to which Lawrence wrote the Introduction. This work of Daughty must have influenced Lawrence's early outlook about the Arabs. He studied it for a period of ten years. (50) Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a mixture of real accounts and fancy. Yet, such real accounts still have a romanticized flavour. He is hardly ever a pure realist. Exagerations, imagined stories and contradictions made Lawrence's description in Seven Pillars of Wisdom largely differ from his accounts in the official reports to the Arab Bureau which was set up on January 1st, 1916 by Clayton, an official highly regarded in Arabia. (51) Robert Graves, Lawrence's biographer, reveals part of this ambiguity, so as to make it seem merely a psychological conflict revealed in the desert and motivated by the sort of life the Bedouin led; he (the Bedouin) "has lost superfluous possesions and has won instead a personal liberty in the shadow of starvation and death. This was an attitude that moved Lawrence greatly, so that his nature has ever since been divided into two conflicting selves, the Bedouin self always longing for the bareness, simplicity, harshness of the desert - that state of mind of which the desert is a symbol - and the over civilized European self". (52) Lawrence, after having read the typescript of the first eleven Chapters of Graves' book on him, sent them back with marginal comments on almost every page. On the above mentioned concept he states: "the two selves, you see, are mutually destructive. So I fall between them into the nihilism which cannot find, in being, even a false god in which to believe". (53) Lawrence has been seen by almost all Arabs to have betrayed their cause and worked solely for British interests in the Middle East; because he wished to win the war at a price the Arabs would have never accepted to pay if they had known that a British victory meant the inclusion of the Arab countries into the British Empire; a fact that Lawrence himself had always known. The Arabs paid with their lives only to achieve their full freedom and entire independence. This also was a well known fact to Lawrence. So Lawrence's intensely self-critical nature caused him anguish and made him feel so guilty and scrupulous for having been ambiguous in the Arabs' eyes. The favourable opinion after the war drove fear into his consciousness. At the same time, the Arabs who worked and believed in him during the war, now started to distrust him and doubt his sincerity and identity. Lawrence's descriptive powers and his dramatic and imaginative tendencies were real assets to him. This is something we understand in the Arab world, but many of those who wrote about Lawrence in the West, took his sayings at their face value and accepted his book as an authentic history of the Arab Revolt: "By so doing, they were being less than fair to Lawrence, for they were reading more into his remarks and actions than he had intended by them". (54) A good example is Lawrence's description of his first meeting with Faisal. "Hamra opened on our left. It seemed a village of about one hundred houses, buried in gardens among mounds of earth some twenty feet in height". (55)

But the fact, without the beautiful vision which Lawrence saw, is largely different. Faisal's camp was near a very small village where there were no "gates" nor big houses; it was a small, simple and even bare place. From Lawrence's description, the place seems to have been a villa or a palace. (56) Lawrence claims that he was sent to Wadi Ais "to find out why Abdullah had done nothing for two months". (57) S. Mousa says that this claim of Lawrence is a complete "conceit and impudence - characteristics which were not to appear in him until after the war, or which at least had not yet become obvious to the Arabs". (58) For it is certain that Lawrence did not dare set himself up as Inspector General of the Arab armies, and Faisal certainly never thought of sending him off to Wadi Ais in this capacity. Faisal considered Lawrence an ordinary British officer who liked the Arabs, worked for their good, provided easy contact with the British Command and was always ready with advice; while in his report to the Arab Bulletin Lawrence says that he was sent to Wadi Ais to deliver the documents Faisal had given him and not to "find out why Abdullah had done nothing for two months". (59) I would like to quote one of Lawrence's reports to the Arab Bureau, to show the reader the difference in Lawrence's style when telling the facts and when writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom. "Meeting today: Wilson, Storrs, Sherif Abdullah, Aziz Ali al-Misri, myself. Nobody knew real situation Rabegh. So much time wasted. Aziz Ali al-Misri going Rabegh with me tomorrow. Sherif Abdullah apparently wanted foreign force at Rabegh as rallying point if combined attack on Medina ended badly. Aziz Ali al-Misri hopes to prevent any decisive risk now and thinks English Brigade neither necessary nor prudent. He says only way to bring sense and continuity into operation is to have English staff at Rabegh dealing direct with Sherif Ali and Sherif Faisal without referring details to Sherif of Mecca of whom they are all respectfully afraid. Unfortunately, withdrawal of aeroplane coincided with appearance of Turkish machines, but Aziz Ali al-Misri attaches little weight to them personally. He is cheerful and speaks well of Sherif's troops". (60) This report shows how Lawrence later in Seven Pillars of Wisdom attributed the opinions of the leaders of the Revolt to himself; for instance this report that refers to the attack on Medina, which King Abdullah in his memoirs, say to have thought of himself. Abdullah wanted to travel to Medina and with the help of his brothers, launch a combined attack on the city and he had suggested this to his father, King al-Hussein, who approved it. This of course, had been planned without consultation with Lawrence. The report further refers to Aziz Ali al-Misri's opinion with regard to the British Brigade, which is the same opinion Lawrence later carried to his superiors in Egypt and took great pride in having proposed. (61)

1. al- Aqaba Campaign:

Aqaba, the most important port on the Red Sea, had been the most important matter of discussion between the British and King al-Hussein for quite a long time. The Turks were using it as a base for planting mines in the Red Sea and the Allies were afraid that the Germans might use it as a submarine base. While still in Wagh, Faisal's base on the red Sea before conquering Aqaba, `Audah Abu Tàyeh, one of the most important, famous and courageous desert warriors, together with Faisal had planned to capture Aqaba. Actually, after the occupation of Wagh, Faisal had sent letters to the Sheikhs of the Northern tribes informing them of his plan and asking for their support. Faisal had appointed al-Sherif Naser to accompany `Audah as his personal representative. Nasìb al-Bakri, who witnessed these events, affirmed the fact that Faisal intended to push the Revolt north to Syria and was in touch with Nuri al-Sa lan and many other military and Syrian leaders. Consequently, al-Sherif Naser was selected to declare the Revolt in the name of King al-Hussein and to rally the tribes and various sections of the population, so that all might sink their private quarrels. Nasìb al-Bakri was sent as a political emissary to the leaders of Jebel Druze and of Syria to prepare their minds and explain the purpose of the revolution. The whole expedition was thus planned without consultation with Lawrence. However, Lawrence asked Faisal to participate in that campaign saying that he could help in planting mines. (62) Faisal agreed, and Lawrence together with other British Officers helped in removing the rails. Yet in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence claims to have been himself the leader and inspirer of the Aqaba expedition. He states that it was a result of his journeys and interviews and that he believed in the possibility of forming seven Arab fighting groups to attack Turkish lines. He also says that he "was working out with Audah abu-Tayeh a march to the Howeitat in their spring pastures of the Syrian desert. From them we might raise a mobile camel force and rush Aqaba from the eastward without guns or machine-guns". (63) Lawrence adds that during this expedition he had to move among the tribes trying to settle their private problems. It is to be noted here that this could not have been possible, for Audah himself complained of Lawrence's presence saying that Lawrence had an adverse influence on the Bedouins of the North; besides, those of the Northern part did not know Lawrence, thus his presence was disturbing and embarassing for the Arab leaders who had to explain, everytime a Bedouin asked about him, who he was and what was his role. There remains the fact that the Bedouins discussed their problems with their own Sheikhs and never with foreigners, even less if this foreigner was not known to them, as was the case in the Northern part of Arabia. (64)

2. The Trip to Damascus:

This trip which Lawrence claimed to have carried out secretly, has aroused much controversy. Lawrence says that he wanted to explore the situation in Syria so that his "strategic ideas" could have been clarified. In his report for the Arab Bulletin, August 1?, 1917, Lawrence said that this trip took place before the departure of Nasìb al-Bakri for Jebel Druze, while in Seven Pillars of Wisdom he said that this trip took place after Nasìb's departure; he also said in Seven Pillars of Wisdom that ten bridges South of Ma`an were destroyed, though nothing of this had appeared in his report, a very important military action which Lawrence would not have ignored in the official reports to his superiors. (65) Sulaiman Mousa claims that he interviewed two Arabs who were with Lawrence during this period - Nasìb al-Bakri and Fàyez al-Gusain - and others indirectly involved, and that Nasìb al-Bakri told him that at this time Lawrence was not absent from the camp even for a day. Sulaiman Mousa says that Fàyez al-Gusain considered it would have been impossible to cover the distance involved in the time, and asked "Was Lawrence a bird to have gone all these distances?". (66) He argues that the journey would have been impossible because Lawrence could not have hidden his identity for twenty-four hours, particularly in a country where the people are naturally inquisitive. "Everytime an Englishman attached to the Arabs went on a mission, he went with a Sherif or an Arab al- Sherif would trust. Who were Lawrence's companions on this expedition? Where did they stay from day to day? Where did they get their food? Why did Lawrence devote so little detail in Seven Pillars of Wisdom to what was considered a major exploit?". (67) Lawrence's diary though tends to confirm his own account. Written in army message forms, they begin in much the same way as his report to the Arab Bureau. "Oh my... I'm terrified... to go off alone to Damascus... to get killed... for all sakes try and clear this show up before it goes further. We are calling them to fight for us on a lie and I can't stand it". (68) And later, Lawrence goes on to say that he "learnt that Hachim was NE of Ragga and Ibn Murshid in prison in Damascus and my plan thus failure... in El Gabbu (Gaboun)... has been entrusted by the Turks with the defence of Damascus". (69) While Nasìb al-Bakri says "As for Lawrence's claim that he went in disguise to Damascus, Ba`labak and Tadmur, it strikes me as very strange indeed, because it is far from the truth. I am certain Lawrence did not leave us for a single day, and we were not separated until after he left for Aqaba, with Audah and Nasir, while I left for Jebel Druze". (70) Yet Lawrence came near to confessing that the story of his trip was a pure fiction in the notes he sent on July 22, 1927 to Robert Graves, who was engaged at the time in writing his biography: "In my report to Clayton after Aqaba, I gave a short account of my excursion from Nebk northward. It was part of the truth. During it, some things happened, and I do not want the whole story to be made traveable. So on this point I have since darkened counsel. You'll have to say something, but you'll not be able to be right in what you say, so, hedge yourself, and me, if you can, by cautionary phrases. Some such thing as the following: 'From Nebk during the Aqaba expedition's halt there, "L" went off on a solitary excursion northward. On this ride he was said to have been convoyed by relays of local tribesmen, beginning with the Rualla and changing them at each tribal boundary. Apparently, none of his own, nor Sherif Nasir's men completed the journey with him. He is said to have been franked by private letters of Emir Faisal, but nothing certain is known of his purpose, his route and the results of his journey...'. (71) He adds: 'You may make public, if you like, the fact that my reticence upon this northward raid is deliberate and based on private reasons: and record your opinion that I have found mystification, and perhaps statements deliberately misleading or contradictory, the best way to hide the truth of what really occurred, if anything did occur'". (72) The evidence is deeply contradictory and it is not out of keeping with Lawrence's character that he may have deliberately added to the mystery of this journey by his own reticence. This issue to me is unsolved.

3. Lady Ayesha:

If we compare Lawrence's descriptions of the two raids on the railway line in the Arab Bulletin (October 8, 1917, N° 65) with that of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, we find that Lawrence in the latter account claimed that he looked after "an ancient and very tremulous Arab dame" and assured her that she would not be harmed, and that months later he received from Damascus "a letter and a pleasant little Baluchi carpet from the lady Ayesha, daughter of Jellal el-Lel, of Medina, in memory of an odd meeting". (73) S. Mousa believes this story to be a fabrication and that the carpet was part of the booty plundered from the train. "Lawrence may have fabricated the episode to forestall the charge that he shared with the Bedouin this primitive custom of plundering the enemy, and to endow his story with something of romantic flavour". (74) But the final proof that the carpet story was a mere invention is supplied by a letter that Lawrence himself wrote to a friend on September 24, 1917, two days after his return from the raid. Having informed his friend of his minor, but real part played in this raid, he goes on to say: "The Turks then nearly cut us off as we looted the train, and I lost some baggage and nearly myself. My loot was a superfine red Baluchi prayer-rug". (75) Then Lawrence refers to Za'al as "our Leader" while in the Arab Bulletin Lawrence says that it was he who exploded the mine. al-Sherif Naser in the Arab Bulletin becomes "Sherif Aid" in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I have chosen only the most significant accounts where Lawrence's tales, adventures, raids and expeditions are elaborated and extended to cover many pages in Seven Pillars of Wisdom instead of one or two in his official reports, and where he mixed up names of the persons, leaders and facts. Lawrence's accounts in Seven Pillars of Wisdom include many details which have no direct connection with the Revolt, but which none the less illustrate part of the general work of the Arab Revolt.


It is unfortunate that Arabic sources are rather meagre about Lawrence, thus making my task as an Arab observer a difficult one. The excuse could be that Arab writers never thought of writing about Lawrence before the publication of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Up to that date almost all the Arab writers, as S. Mousa also confirms, considered Lawrence as one of the many foreign officers who worked with the Arabs and deserved no particular attention. Infact, among those other officers, Colonel Joyce is highly praised by King Abdullah of Transjordan who says: "Colonel Joyce, or Major Joyce, or Joyce Beik, one of the most faithful people to both the British and the Arab Cause. He helped the Arabs more than Lawrence, suffering all kinds of calamities". (76) Though an Arab myself, I still would like to stress the fact that some Arabs were too fanatical when they judged Lawrence. I must admit that al- Umary, for instance, was rather unfair to Lawrence. He did not understand Lawrence's psychological and personal conflicts, which I do not intend to discuss here. al- Umary and Zudhi al-Fàtih have both condemned Lawrence without taking into account any of his merits. For them Lawrence worked solely for British interests and was motivated principally by British imperialism. It is a view which I have found difficult to share fully. It is obvious that Lawrence's loyalty was due first and foremost to Britain. This though does not mean that he did not care for the Arabs or that he wanted to betray them. Most Arabs view Lawrence only as a spy or an Intelligence Officer; to me it is difficult to define Lawrence as a 'spy' in the modern sense of the word. One of the most significant reasons for which he was judged as such by the Arabs is the fact that he denied his knowledge of the Sykes-Picot agreement, whereby Sir Mark Sykes and Monsieur François Georges-Picot planned to divide the best parts of the Ottoman Empire among Britain, France and Russia, leaving little that was worthwile for the Arabs. Lawrence kept this from Faisal. The Arabs discovered what had happened only after the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia revealing all secret agreements in which Russia was a party. The Arabs could not conceive that Britain had betrayed them, and King al-Hussein questioned the British who denied that any such agreement existed and reaffirmed their promise to free the Arab peoples. Yet Lawrence himself admits "...not being a perfect fool, I could see that if we won the war, the promises to the Arabs were dead paper. Had I been an honourable Adviser, I would have sent my men home and not let them risk their lives for such stuff. Yet the Arab inspiration was our main tool in winning the Eastern war. So I assured them that England kept her word in letter and spirit... but, of course... I was continually bitter and ashamed". (77) The Arabs wondered how a man who had identified himself to such an extent with the people whom he declared to love, could have gone ahead with his mission in spite of such evidence of Allied perfidy. Lawrence loved his own Country and the Arab people; he may not have considered the two loves as incompatible with each other. He may have loved two peoples and tried his best to serve both.Having kept the truth about the agreement from the Arabs, Lawrence has indeed hurt them as a friend. Yet Lawrence, I believe, together with Hogarth and other British Officers, hoped, though in vain, to undermine the agreement; besides it seems to me that Lawrence did not see the agreement as it really was, a political form of a treachery. His was essentially a poetic nature which sometimes, drew him away from reality and made him hope and dream of solutions he would have desired. I think that Lawrence did desire freedom for the Arabs, but a kind of freedom that meant inclusion within the British Empire. Evidence of this occurs in a letter he sent to Lord Curzon, dated 25 September 1919, where he wrote that his ambition was that "the Arabs should be Britain's first brown Dominion and not our own last brown Colony". (78) Though it may not be gratifying to the Arab mind to be considered worthy of being a "Dominion", still I think, Lawrence's conception of Dominion Status for the Arab lands was counter to the more traditional imperialism that still influenced the post war peace conferences as the Allies planned to divide the spoils of war. Lawrence's effect upon the direction of British imperialist interest in the post war years in the Middle East is to be evaluated. Lawrence called his conception of Asiatic dominions within the British Empire "the New Imperialism". His notions, I believe, were not imperialistic by the standards of the period. He envisages a system of alliances between the Arab Asiatic countries whereby they would join the British Empire for military protection and advice, but remain politically independent within it. Lawrence's actual expression of this view was set forth in an anonymous article which appeared in September 1920 in the political monthly The Round Table. He states "This new imperialism is not just withdrawal and neglect on our part. It involves an active side of imposing responsibility on the local peoples. It is what they clamour for, but an unpopular gift when given... We can only teach them how by forcing them to try, while we stand by and give advice. This is not for us less honourable than administration: indeed, it is more exacting for it is simple to give orders, but difficult to persuade another to take advice, and it is the more difficult which is most pleasant doing. We must be prepared to see them doing things by methods quite unlike our own, and less well; but on principle, it is better that they half-do it than that we do it perfectly for them. In pursuing such courses, we will find our best helpers not in our former most obedient subjects, but among those now most active in agitating against us, for it will be the intellectual leaders of the people who will serve the purpose, and these are not the philosophers nor the rich, but the demagogues and the politicians... Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia, if assured of eventual dominion status, and present internal autonomy, would be delighted to affiliate with us, and would then cost us no more in men and money than Canada or Australia. The alternative is to hold on to them with ever-lessening force, till the anarchy is too expensive, and we let go". (79) Lawrence in fact, seems to have desired a paternal kind of colonization which he called "Dominion". On the other hand, in his report on "The Conquest of Syria", Lawrence states quite plainly that "If we wish to be at peace in South Syria and hold South Mesopotamia as well, and to control the Holy Cities, it is essential that the owner of Damascus should either be ourselves or some non-Mohammedan power friendly to us... The tribes of middle Mesopotamia would not be pleased at being left to Turkey (Pan-Arab feeling is very strong North of Baghdad), nor would they be an edifying sight if they were left to form their own government". (80) Evidence that Lawrence wore Arab dress and behaved as a Bedouin for reasons other than love and admiration for the Arabs, is to be found in his Twenty Seven Articles, a manual for political officers on how to handle Arabs. "Handling Hejaz Arabs is an art, not a science", he wrote and goes on to reveal the kind of the relationship he had with Faisal: "Win and keep the confidence of your leader... never refuse or quash schemes he may put forward, but ensure that they are put forward in the first instance privately to you. Always approve them, and after praise modify them insensibly, causing the suggestions to come from him, until they are in accord with your own opinion. When you attain this point, hold him to it, keep a tight grip of his ideas, and push him forward as firmly as possible, but secretly so that no one but himself (and he not too clearly) is aware of our pressure". (81) And in Seven Pillars of Wisdom he wrote "Faisal was a brave, weak, ignorant spirit, trying to do work for which only a genius, a prophet or a great criminal was fitted. I served him out of pity, a motive which degraded us both". (82) Lawrence's love for the Arabs is very difficult to be understood by the Arabs themselves; yet, I think, it is to be seen in relation to his particular personality; for it is part of his own character not to be clear in his feelings, attitudes, actions and tendencies. Yet, realistically speaking, from the Arab's point of view, Lawrence did actually betray the Arab cause. According to me, Lawrence did not realize exactly what he had done until the war was over and until he saw that his efforts to undermine the treacherous agreement and make Britain fulfil its promises to the Arabs were in vain; he actually lived afterwards plagued by a sense of guilt and remorse. An evidence of his good intentions is his fight between 1918 and 1922, in London, Paris, Oxford, Cairo and Amman, to fulfil what he considered to be his responsibilities to the Arab peoples. To achieve this, he used all his powers of intellect as well as his personal talents and abilities. He launched a war of words in private negotiations in public and private papers and letters. Irving How has observed that Lawrence's loyalty to the Arab during the immediate post-war period "this stubborness - let us call it by its true name: this absolute unwillingness to sell out - began to strike his British colleagues as unreasonable, an embarrassment to their diplomacy". (83) Despite of all his unsuccessfull attempts to help the Arabs, Lawrence is still judged by the Arabs, according to what were the results of the war, namely the partition of the Arab lands. Arab historians do not take his intentions into account but merely consider him as an officer who actively furthered the British Policy against them. And as for his postwar efforts, some Arabs consider them to be Lawrence's desire to expiate for his sense of guilt towards them. While some others did not even take this into account since they believed it was too late for amends. Zudhi al-Fàteh and almost all Arabs also accuse Lawrence of having Zionist tendencies. Lawrence knew about the Balfour Declaration, in November 1917, which promised Palestine "the twice promised land" a "national home" for the Jews. Lawrence's attitude was sympathetic towards the new position of Palestine. (84) He tried his best to persuade the Arabs to accept the new situation, not because he was a pro-zionist, but, I think, because he saw that such a situation would have thwarted the French and kept them out of Palestine and, what was more important to Lawrence, he thought the new scheme might keep them out of Syria. This, to Lawrence, was working along the lines of an Arab state in Syria, under British protection. Besides, Lawrence thought there would be no difficulty in reconcilling Zionist and Arabs in Palestine and Syria. Lawrence, somewhat ingenuously here thought that co-existence between Arabs and Jews would be possible and even profitable for the Arabs. He was unable to understand the Arab problem in Palestine, as his main concern was Syria and Lebanon in that critical period which followed the war. He even tought that the Jews could finance Faisal in the development of Syria, ignoring what the Zionist were actually aiming at. He stated that "the success of the (Zionist) scheme will involve inevitably the raising of the present Arab population to their own material level... and the consequences might be of the highest importance for the future of the Arab world... However, such a contingency will not be for the first or even for the second generation...". (85) A. Nutting says that Lawrence "had always looked upon the Semitic race of Jews and Arabs as an indivisible whole. At the same time both he and Faisal, no doubt felt that such avowed support of Zionism at this time would be good politics, in that it would still further commend the Arab cause to the American and British delegations by showing that an independent Arab state would not conflict with Jewish interests and claims as set forth in the Balfour Declaration". (86) What Lawrence was doing in this concern is startling as far as the Arab cause in Palestine is concerned. But, I believe, it was difficult at that time to foresee where such a policy would lead. Besides, Lawrence may have thought that the Jews, surrounded as they are by the Arabs from all sides, would never become so strong as to cause such a disaster to three million Arab Palestinians. That he did not envisage any possible danger for the Palestine Arabs is clearly shown by the following statement: "Palestinian, and the Arab Government is not afraid of them (can cut all their throats, or better pull all their teeth out, when it wishes). They will finance the whole East, I hope, Syria and Mesopotamia alike". (87) On the other hand, it was difficult for him to foresee a strong American support for the Jews as such, especially at that time when the American Missions in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine had strong anti-Zionist leanings. (88) Besides, his divided political loyalties are discussed in two chapters as well as in the suppressed introduction of Seven Pillars of Wisdom revealing imagery of splitting, dividing and breaking. As I have previously said, I do not intend to deal with Lawrence's psychology, but in order to give the reader an idea of Lawrence's anguish in trying to reconcile his two-sided role, I will quote some statements of his: "Not for the first or last time, service to two masters irked me. I was one of Allenby's officers, and in his confidence; in return, he expected me to do the best I could for him. I was Faisal's adviser, and Faisal relied upon the honesty and competence of my advice so far as often to take it without argument. Yet I could not explain to Allenby the whole Arab situation, nor disclose the full British plan to Faisal." (89) And while chapter 100 of Seven Pillars of Wisdom embodied Lawrence's agonizing thoughts on his deception of the Arabs, he states them still more clearly in the angry original introduction. He heightens the importance of the Arab victory and writes that: "the book is just a designed procession of Arab freedom from Mecca to Damascus... It was an Arab war waged and led by Arabs for an Arab aim in Arabia". (90) In this same chapter, Lawrence seems to admit that his poetic nature and his love of writing made him heighten his role: "My proper share was a minor one, but because of a fluent pen, a free speech and a certain adroitness of brain, I took upon myself, as I described it, a mock primacy. In reality I never had any office among the Arabs, was never in charge of the British mission with them".(91) Lastly he even gives vent to the disillusionment caused in him by the British: "We were casting them by thousands into the fire to the worst of deaths, not to win the war but that the corn and rice and oil of Mesopotamia might be ours". (92) Lawrence suffered greatly as a result of the conflicts and contradictions in his nature. He craved fame, yet he hid himself and hated public 'lights'; he was timid and feared his fame, fearing above all that others would realise his desire for it. This and his love of self-aggrandizement made him write things which had little to do with the reality of Revolt. I think, he was by nature inclined to exageration too; and as far as I could understand from John Mack' s psycho-analysis, this was due to the inferiority complex which Lawrence always felt since he was a young boy, and which started when he learned that he was an illegitimate son and that his parents had never married. Yet he was tough and hard, and had exceptional abilities: he possessed an impressive array of talents and qualifications which suited him well during his work in the Revolt, a remarkable memory, an intellectual brilliance, flexibility and vision, an unusual physical stamina and great personal courage; all of which were the greatest assets which made it easy for the Arabs to accept him and for Lawrence to get along well with them. But his self-critical nature made his lively conscience often cause him great agony for the guilt-complex which persecuted him after the war, and made him feel most scrupulous for his ambiguous reactions. Like many famous men in history, when faced simultaneously with a grave moral challenge, great material opportunity and greater personal abilities, Lawrence's reactions were ambivalent. He tried desperately to exploit no one and serve both masters. Now if I have to assess with fairness Lawrence's role on the battle field of the Revolt I cannot escape the conclusion that it was not as great as he described it. And though he helped the Arabs as much as he could, yet he did not do much more than the other British officers who worked for the Arabs then. Besides from a purely historical factual angle the Arab assessment of Lawrence is correct except for those who considered him just a treacherous spy or those who saw that "Lawrenc's contribution was zero or negative". (93) His poetic Seven Pillars of Wisdom cannot be taken as mere "lies" or desire for expiation and self-justifying or self-aggrandizement. In it Lawrence gives free rein to his eloquence, imagination, and powers, of intellect as well as the range of his poetic talents at the disposal of his flexible and fluent pen, revealing, to a certain extent, part of the hidden truth within himself. Lawrence loved the Desert, and saw in its wideness the measure of freedom his soul had always aspired to, and in its toughness he found a good rival to his extraordinary capacity to adapt himself to hard situations and challenges. He loved the continual juxtaposition of betrayal and vengeance which is the very essence of desert life. His romantic and somewhat ambivalent ascetism, found natural expression in the Bedouins' simple life. He loved their poverty and renunciation while at the same time he enjoyed the pleasures of their life. He loved their free spirit, their disregard for material objects which led them to mock at such wordly aspirations as fame and ambition. Indeed Lawrence, though unable to achieve it himself, longed for the true freedom that only unconditional renunciation to all forms of ambition and fame can give and perhaps made him subconsciously aspire to a form of identification with the Arab and his way of life.


(1) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, p. 167

(2) Subhi al- ' Umary, 1969, p. 164

(3) T. E. Lawrence, 1939, pp.38-39

(4) G. Antonius, 1965, p. 29

(5) G. Antonius, 1965, p. 30

(6) G. Antonius, 1965, p.31

(7) A. Nutting, 1961, p. 15

(8) P. Knightley and C. Simpson, 1971, p.90

(9) H. Howard, 1963, p. 48

(10) T. E. Lawrence, 1939, p. 103

(11) King Abdullah, 1950

(12) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, pp. 14-15

(13) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, pp.77-79

(14) Subhi al- ' Umary, 1969, p. 15

(15) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, pp. 59-60

(16) A. Nutting, 1961, p. 28

(17) Hafet Wahbah, 1935, pp. 70-88

(18) John H. St. Philby, 1948, p. 12

(19) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, pp.37-39

(20) Abdullah EL Hussein, 1965, p. 13

(21) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, p. 59

(22) T. E. Lawrence, 1966, pp.182-197

(23) al-Sherif Hussein Ibn Ali, also called al-Hussein, Sherif Mecca, had four sons: Ali, Faisal, Abdullah, and Zeid.

(24) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, pp. 77-79

(25) T. E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 50

(26) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, p. 48

(27 Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, p. 61

(28) T. E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 71

(29) Hafet Wahbah, 1935, p. 189

(30) Anis Sayeg, 1963, pp. 15-23

(31) Subhi al- 'Umary, 1969, p. 32

(32) T.E. Lawrence, 1937, pp. 41-45

(33 T. E. Lawrence, 1939, p. 65

(34) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, p. 60

(35) Muhammad Ali Agluni, 1956, p. 32

(35a) A. Nutting as well, confirms the argument in his book, 1961, p. 34

(36) T.E. Lawrence, 1916-1919, p. 81

(37) R. Perceval Graves, 1976, p. 13

(38) R. Perceval Graves, 1976, p. 13

(39) Leonard Woolley was the new director of the dig after the departure of Hogarth (

40) R. Perceval Graves, 1976, p. 21

(41) R. Perceval Graves, 1976, p. 23

(42) S. Halil Nassar, 1930, p. 21 (

43) S. Halil Nassar, 1930, p. 23

(44) British Museum, Department of Western Manuscripts 0124621664. Among the " Additional Manuscripts" are Lawrence's correspondence with Charlotte Shaw (Mrs. George Bernard Shaw) and his war diaries, all of which he bequeathed to the Museum

(45) G. Kimche, 1970, p. 68

(46) As a result of his working with Woolley and Captain Newcombe on the Sinai survey, Lawrence wrote The Wilderness of Zin

(47) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, Introduction

(48) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, Introduction

(49) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, Introduction

(50) Charles M. Daughty, 1888, 1921.

(51) Sir Gilbert Clayton, 1969

(52) Jean B. Villars, 1958, p. 16

(53) R. P. Graves, 1963, p. 41

(54) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, p. 35

(55) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 64

(56) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, p. 38

(57) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, Introduction

(58) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, p. 54

(59) T.E. Lawrence, 1916-1919, p. 89

(60) T.E. Lawrence, 1916-1919, p. 82

(61) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, p. 32

(62) Anis Sayeg, 1966, pp. 38-51 (

63) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 195

(64) A. Qadrah, 1966 pp. 26- 40

(65) T.E. Lawrence, 1916-1919, pp. 210-220

(66) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, pp. 74-78

(67) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, pp. 74-78

(68) T.E. Lawrence, 1937, pp. 22-30

(69) T.E. Lawrence, 1937, pp. 22-30

(70) S. H. Nassar, 1930, p. 102

(71) R. P. Graves, 1963, pp. 88-90

(72) R. P. Graves, 1963, pp. 88-90

(73) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 371

(74) Sulaiman Mousa, 1966, p. 98

(75) T.E. Lawrence, 1983, p. 80

(76) Abdullah EL Hussein, 1965, p.53

(77) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 243

(78) T.E. Lawrence, 1983, p. 291

(79) T.E. Lawrence, 1939, pp. 95-97

(80) Public Record Office, London. Documents from Foreign Office and cabinet papers. Doc. no. 882/16

(81) Public Record Office, Doc. no. 882/7

(82) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 517

(83) Zuhdi al- Fateh, 1971, p. 18

(84) J.E. Mack, 1976, p. 249

(85) Lawrence, 1939, p. 93

(86) A. Nutting, 1961, pp. 187-188

(87) P. Knightley and C. Simpson, 1971, p.142

(88) R. Perceval Graves, 1976, pp. 83-84

(89) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, p. 346

(90) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, Introduction

(91) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, Introduction

(92) T.E. Lawrence, 1966, Introduction

(93) Uriel Dann, May, 1979. pp. 154-162


1- Abdullah, King, Memoirs of King Abdullah of Transjordan, edited by Philip Graves, with an introduction by R. J. C. Broadhurst, London, Jonathan Cape, 1950

2- Abdullah, EL- Hussein, Memoirs of King Abdullah El-Hussein, introduced and edited by Mustafah Hajkh, Beirut, 1965.

3- Agluni, Muhammad Ali, dikrayat an 'l-tawrah 'l-arabiyyah 'lkubra, Amman, Dar 'l- kutub, 1956.

4- Antonius, George, The Arab Awakening, New York, Capricorn Books, 1965.

5- Clayton, Sir Gilbert, An Arabian Diary, Berkerly and Los

Angeles, University of California Press, 1969

6- Dann,Uriel 'Lawrence of Arabia' - One More Appraisal, in Middle Eastern Studies, 15, 2,1979, May, pp. 154- 162

7- Daughty, Charles M., Travels in Arabia Deserta, (1888), with an introduction by T. E. Lawrence, London, Medici Society and Cape, 1921

8- Fateh al-, Zuhdi, Lawrence al arab ala huta Hertzel: taqarir

Lawrence al- sirriyyah, Beirut, Dar al- Naga'iz, 1971

9- Graves, R. ,T.E. Lawrence to his Biographers, London, Robert Graves and Liddle Hart, Cassel & Co. Ltd., 1963

10- Graves, R. Perceval, Lawrence of Arabia and his world, London, Thames and Hudson, 1976

11- Howard, H., The King- Crane Commission, Beirut, Hayyats, 1963

12- Kimche, The Second Arab Awakening, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.

13- Knightley P. and Simpson C., The Secret lives of Lawrence of Arabia, London, Panther Books, 1971.

14- Lawrence T. E. , The Arab Bulletin, Papers of the Arab Bureau, Cairo, 1916-1919, of which Lawrence was one of the authors. His contributions to the Bulletin were bublished separately by Arnold Lawrence under the title Secret Despatches from Arabia. (see below)

15- Lawrence, T.E., The Diary, New York, Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1937; I , though, consulted the British Museum copy; the Diary in fact, formed a part of the Oriental Assembly, British Museum, MS 49515.

16- Lawrence, T.E., Secret Despatches from Arabia, published by the permission of the Foreign Office; forward by A.W. Lawrence, London, Golden Cockerel Press 1939, ( Edition limited to thousand numbered copies).I, in fact read the British Museum copy, 012274 66 5 British Museum.

17- Lawrence, T.E., Seven Pillars of Wisdom, ed. A. Triumph, New York, Doubleday and Company Inc., Garden City, 1966. No edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom was issued for the general public until after Lawrence's death in 1935.

18- Lawrence, T.E., Selected Letters of T.E. Lawrence, ed. David Garnett, London, Jonathan Cape, 1983.

19- Mack , J.E. , A Prince of our Disorder, London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1976.

20- Mousa, Sulaiman, T. E. Lawrence, an Arab View, London Oxford University Press, 1966.

21- Nassar, S. Halil, Lawrence wa 'l 'arab , Beirut, American Press , 1930.

22- Nutting, A., Lawrence of Arabia, The Man and the Motive, London, Hallis and Carter, 1961.

23- Office, Public Record, London; Documents from Foreign Office papers and cabinet papers. Doc. consulted are no. 882/16/17/19

24- Philby, John H. St., Arabian Days, London Robert Hale, 1948.

25- Qadrah, A., mudakkarat 'an 'l- tawrah 'l- 'arabiyyah 'l- kubra, Damascus, Ibn Zaidun, 1966.

26- Sayeg, Anis, ra'y 'arabi fi Lawrence, in, Hiwar, Beirut, 1963, July- August.

27- Sayeg, Anis, al- Hasimiyyun wa 'l-tawrah 'l-'arabiyyah 'l-kubra, Beirut, Dar 'l-Tali'ah, 1966.

28- 'Umary al-, Subhi, Lawrence kama 'araftuhu, Beirut, Dar 'l- Nahar li-nnasr,1969.

29- Villars, Jean B., T.E. Lawrence or the Search for the Absolute, London, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1959.

30- Wahbah, Hafet, gazirat 'l-'arab fi 'l- qarn 'l-'isrin, Cairo, Writers' Printing House, 1935.

prof. Lucy Ladikoff Guasto Arabist, PR, translator, interpreter (English, French, Italian) p.o. box 28, 16031 Bogliasco (Genova), Italy tel 00-39-10-3460184 fax 00-39-10-3460184 e-mail address: l.ladikoff@pn.itnet.it mobile: 0335-6644416