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Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East | [Scott Anderson]

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

Based on four years of intensive primary document research, Lawrence in Arabiadefinitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.
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Publisher's Summary

A thrilling and revelatory narrative of one of the most epic and consequential periods in 20th-century history: the Arab Revolt and the secret game to control the Middle East.

The Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I was, in the words of T. E. Lawrence, "a sideshow of a sideshow". As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power. Curt Prüfer was an academic attached to the German embassy in Cairo whose clandestine role was to foment jihad against British rule. Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and committed Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor of Palestine even as he built an elaborate anti-Ottoman spy ring. William Yale was a fallen scion of the American aristocracy who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order to gain valuable oil concessions. At the center of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist digging ruins in Syria; by 1917 he was riding into legend at the head of an Arab army, as he fought a rear guard action against his own government and its imperial ambitions.

Based on four years of intensive primary document research, Lawrence in Arabiadefinitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.

©2013 Scott Anderson (P)2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (234 )
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  •  
    Gerald Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 05-04-14
    Gerald Cedar Rapids, IA, United States 05-04-14 Member Since 2005

    Traveler

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    "Indepth look at World War 1 in the Middle East"

    This book greatly enhance my learning about the history of the middle east. My knowledge of World War 1 evidently was a lot poorer than I imagined. The author does a great job of setting the stage and following intersecting paths that impact the outcome and future of the Middle East all the way to current times. At the same time he gives a vivid description of the senseless stupidity of all sides of the war and the wasted deaths that entailed. The Arabs, British, Turks, Germans, Jews, Americans and worst of all probably Standard Oil, all vying for their piece of the pie. From our modern vantage point it seems so pathetic. The narrator was superb. The hardest part for me listening to the book as I drove was understanding where the action was taking place. I had to pull up Wikipedia to learn more about the geography.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard 04-23-14
    Richard 04-23-14 Member Since 2006
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    "Portrait of accidental"
    Would you listen to Lawrence in Arabia again? Why?

    Yes, and I have. So thankful for this epic story of a least likely world changer.


    What did you like best about this story?

    His life before becoming a legend and after. Could not accept and resolve his role in world history.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The beginning of the book with the relationship of Lawrence, Faisal, Germany, and the United States in the political fate of the Middle East.


    Any additional comments?

    The movie is great, but only touched on his humanity and probable mental illness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Chateaugay, NY, United States 02-26-14
    John Chateaugay, NY, United States 02-26-14 Member Since 2013
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    2
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    "Wonderful"
    Would you listen to Lawrence in Arabia again? Why?

    Yes. There is a lot of info covered here. One could easily gain from a second or third listen.


    Any additional comments?

    Goes beyond the typical history by introducing several important characters (american, german, israeli...) in addition to T.E. Lawrence. He comes back to them throughout the narrative to flesh out the experience. I already know a bit of the history but not enough to say for sure how biased or accurate it is. But it definitely seems to ring true.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristin OCEANSIDE, CA, United States 01-26-14
    Kristin OCEANSIDE, CA, United States 01-26-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Exciting, impressive, and informative!"

    Wow! I have always been interested in the "Middle East". My fathers grandparents were from Syria/Lebanon and arrived in America in 1917. For me this book gave an amazingly understandable explanation of the situation and politics leading up to and through WWI that contributed to our modern day mess.

    I was so excited over the book I made the whole family watch the "Lawrence of Arabia" movie....hubby tried to be supportive, but kids just walked out ;-)

    I have read a lot of books over the years that attempt to provide a history of the middle east, this book put a story to it and made me unable to stop listening.

    Highly recommend!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    margot new york, NY, United States 01-18-14
    margot new york, NY, United States 01-18-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Quirky sidelights of WW1"

    Lawrence here is a young scholar, not at all flaky, cowering, or emotionally crippled, who puts on a uniform and plays the Great Game. His story is told in parallel with those of some others, an upper-class but impoverished scion from America named William Yale, and some Zionist settler/spies in Palestine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-25-13
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-25-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Putting Lawrence of Arabia in context"
    Any additional comments?

    I was fascinated to learn about T.E. Lawrence. I had never before understood how he became "of Arabia" and the movie had confused me even more!
    Now, thanks to this book, I can make sense of the situation, if not of Lawrence's rather troubled life and personality

    The author intertwines his story with that of three other characters in the region at the time. There is certainly interest in their stories, but I found it broke up the narrative just when I was finding it most engrossing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Long Pennsylvania 10-23-13
    Thomas Long Pennsylvania 10-23-13

    Captain Tom

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    "Interesting history"

    A well researched and well read version of events in the Middle East in WW I. The character of T. E. Lawrence was larger than life, but was he just another pawn in the British game of imperialism? A great story of Lawrence and other players in that war to end all wars. The narration is outstanding, bringing all of these characters to life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jonathan TUSTIN RANCH, CA, United States 10-19-13
    Jonathan TUSTIN RANCH, CA, United States 10-19-13 Member Since 2011

    Jonathan F.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great story that explains origins of M/E troubles"
    What made the experience of listening to Lawrence in Arabia the most enjoyable?

    This is well-told story of 4 characters' lives and exploits in the Middle East that helps explain the origins of the border and territorial disputes that live on a century later.


    What does Malcolm Hillgartner bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Hillgartner has a "professorial" tone that suited the book's material. He added a few accents in order to indicate the words of different individuals, and that made the book feel more "alive" than if I had read the words in the book.


    Any additional comments?

    This book offered an insight into the life of T.E. Lawrence who is not the same character displayed on the big screen by Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia". The backroom dealings of British and French diplomats created artificial and unnatural national borders after the collapse and defeat of the Ottoman Empire.
    I learnt that there was no drive for Palestinian Arab nationhood in the 1910's. What we know as "Palestinian Nationalism" today is a movement that mainly developed after the UN Partition Plan and the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
    At the time of World War (the era covered by this book), Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, led the struggle (against British and French interests) for an all-emcompasing unified Arab Nation that includes modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Sinai Peninsula, Iraq, and the entire Arabian peninsula.
    The painful after-effects of the events covered by this book live on until the present day.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jay A. Cohen Santa Clara, CA USA 09-09-13
    Jay A. Cohen Santa Clara, CA USA 09-09-13 Member Since 2004

    Padre Cohen

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Really Wanted to Like This"

    Heard about "Lawrence in Arabia" in an interview of Scott Anderson. Sounded interesting and what with my being a T.E. Lawrence fan…

    T.E. Lawrence is fascinating, and the information Mr. Anderson presents is engrossing. The historical context is presented particularly well. But the story is destroyed by its uninspired and annoyingly amateurish writing. So much so it gets in the way of the story.

    The narrator does a journeyman's job, but it gets outright silly when doing voice characterizations.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Glenn United States 02-01-14
    Glenn United States 02-01-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "It's why I dont read books..."

    so I listen, but this story is a waste of time. Watch the movie and/or listen to the author on NPR's Fresh Air. The author's interview was super interesting and inspired me to hear the whole story. Well, way too much detail in a story that should take 1/4 of the time. Maybe it's the state of the world, we have no patience, we need instant gratification, or maybe just don't overdo it. I don't need to hear a lot of words, I want to hear a great tale.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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