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Lawrence, T. E.

T. E. Lawrence: (Thomas Edward Lawrence), 1888–1935, British adventurer, soldier, and scholar, known as Lawrence of Arabia. While a student at Oxford he went on a walking tour of Syria and in 1911 joined a British Museum archaeological expedition in Mesopotamia. He remained in the Middle East until 1914, learning colloquial Arabic and making exploratory trips and archaeological surveys. After the outbreak of World War I, Lawrence was attached to the intelligence section of the British army in Egypt.

In 1916, he joined the Arab forces under Faisal al Husayn (Faisal I) and became a link between the British and the Arab rebels as well as a leader in the Arab revolt against Turkish rule. Lawrence molded a diverse group of a few thousand tribesmen into an effective guerrilla force whose small, rapid assaults tied down large Turkish armies. After the war he was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference, where in vain he sought independence for the Arabs. He became (1919) a research fellow at Oxford and served (1921–22) as Middle East adviser to the colonial office, working constantly for the creation of independent Arab states.

Lawrence had meanwhile become something of a legendary figure, but in 1922 he enlisted, under the name of Ross, as a mechanic in the Royal Air Force. There have been many interpretations of his search for anonymity: his feeling that he had betrayed Arab hopes for independence or, conversely, the conviction that he had done everything possible for his Arab friends and could do no more; an almost pathological aversion to publicity; or emotional disturbances produced by his war experiences. When Lawrence's identity was discovered (1923), he went into the tank corps; in 1925 he rejoined the air force. He legally adopted (1927) the name T. E. Shaw.

In Paris in 1919, Lawrence began to write a narrative of his Arabian adventures, but he lost most of the manuscript and had to rewrite the whole without his notes, which he had destroyed. The result was the celebrated Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which was privately printed and circulated in 1926 although not published commercially until 1935. An abridged version, Revolt in the Desert, appeared in 1927. The Mint, an account of his life in the Royal Air Force, written under the pseudonym J. H. Ross, was published in 1955. Other works are a translation of the Odyssey (1932), Oriental Assembly (papers, ed. by his brother, A. W. Lawrence, 1939), and his letters (ed. by David Garnett, 1938, new ed. 1964).

See biographies by R. Graves (1928), D. Orgil (1973), J. E. Mack (1976), M. Brown and J. Cave (1988), J. Wilson (1989), M. Asher (1999), and M. Korda (2010); studies by J. Meyers, ed. (1989) and S. Anderson (2013); bibliographies by F. Clements (1973) and P. O'Brien (1988).

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Lawrence, T. E.

Lawrence, T. E. (1888–1935), generally known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Born in north Wales of Anglo-Irish stock, educated at Oxford High School and Jesus College, Oxford, Lawrence's interest in medieval military architecture led to a travelling fellowship to excavate in the Middle East, enabling familiarization with its language and people. In 1914 his rare expertise in Arab affairs resulted in intelligence work in Egypt, where he sought to undermine Germany's ally Turkey, and met Faisal (later ruler of Iraq). He was not the only British officer involved in the Arab rebellion, but his guerrilla attacks, particularly on communications (bridges, railways), distracted and contained Turkish troops remarkably effectively. Demobilized as a colonel, he was appointed adviser on Arab affairs to Churchill in the Colonial Office (1921), and worked on his war memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom. An extremely complex individual, Lawrence then enlisted as an RAF aircraftsman, changing his name to Ross, then Shaw by deed-poll (1927), and spent several years developing high-speed watercraft. Soon after discharge in 1935, he was killed near his cottage at Clouds Hill, Dorset in a motor-cycling accident. Such was the awe in which he was held that popular rumour insisted that he had once more gone into hiding in preparation for a new war.

A. S. Hargreaves

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"Lawrence, T. E.." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Lawrence, T.E.

Lawrence, T.E. ( Thomas Edward) (1888–1935) (Lawrence of Arabia) British soldier. He joined the army in World War I, and in 1916 became a leader of the Arab revolt against the Turks. He proved a successful guerrilla commander, leading Arab forces into Damascus, Syria, in October 1918. He published his remarkable account of the Arab revolt, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, privately in 1926.

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