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

Scott Anderson

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On the morning of October 30, 1918, Colonel Thomas Edward Law- rence received a summons to Buckingham Palace.  The  king had
requested his presence.

The collective mood in London that day was euphoric. For the past four years and three months, Great Britain and much of the rest of the world had been consumed by the bloodiest conflict in recorded history, one that had claimed the lives of some sixteen million people across three continents. Now, with a speed that scarcely could have been imagined mere weeks earlier, it was all coming to an end. On that same day, one of Great Britain’s three principal foes, the Ottoman Empire, was accept- ing peace terms, and the remaining two, Germany and Austria-Hungary, would shortly follow suit. Colonel Lawrence’s contribution  to that war effort had been in its Middle  Eastern theater,  and he too was caught quite off guard by its rapid close. At the beginning of that month, he had still been in the field assisting in the capture of Damascus, an event that heralded the collapse of the Ottoman army. Back in England for less than a week, he was already consulting with those senior British statesmen and generals tasked with mapping out the postwar borders of the Middle East, a once-fanciful endeavor that had now become quite urgent. Lawrence was apparently under the impression that his audience with King George V that morning was to discuss those ongoing deliberations.

He was mistaken. Once at the palace, the thirty-year-old  colonel was ushered into a ballroom where, flanked by a half dozen dignitaries and a coterie of costumed courtiers, the king and queen soon entered. A low cushioned stool had been placed just before the king’s raised dais, while to the monarch’s immediate right, the lord chamberlain held a velvet pillow on which an array of medals rested. After introductions were made, George V fixed his guest with a smile: “I have some presents for you.”

As a student  of British history, Colonel  Lawrence knew precisely what was about to occur.  The  pedestal was an investiture  stool, upon which he was to kneel as the king performed the elaborate, centuries-old ceremony—the conferring of a sash and the medals on the pillow, the tap- ping with a sword and the intoning of an oath—that would make him a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

It was a moment T. E. Lawrence had long dreamed of. As a boy, he was obsessed with medieval history and the tales of King Arthur’s court, and his greatest ambition, he once wrote, was to be knighted by the age of thirty. On that morning, his youthful aspiration was about to be fulfilled.

A couple of details added to the honor. Over the past four years, King George had given out so many commendations and medals to his nation’s soldiers that even knighthoods were now generally bestowed en masse; in the autumn of 1918, a private investiture like Lawrence’s was practically unheard of. Also unusual was the presence of Queen Mary. She normally eschewed these sorts of ceremonies, but she had been so stirred by the accounts of T. E. Lawrence’s wartime deeds as to make an exception in his case.
Except Lawrence didn’t kneel. Instead, just as the ceremony got under way, he quietly informed the king that he was refusing the honor.

There followed a moment of confusion. Over the nine-hundred-year history of the monarchy, the refusal of knighthood was such an extraor- dinary event that there was no protocol for how to handle it. Eventually, King George returned to the lord chamberlain’s pillow the medal he had been awkwardly holding, and under the baleful gaze of a furious Queen Mary, Colonel Lawrence turned and walked away.

TODAY,  MORE  THAN  seven  decades  after  his death,  and  nearly  a century since the exploits that made him famous, Thomas Edward Lawrence—“Lawrence of Arabia,” as he is better known—remains one of the most enigmatic and controversial figures of the twentieth century. Despite scores of biographies, countless scholarly studies, and at least three  movies, including one considered a masterpiece, historians have never quite decided what to make of the young, bashful Oxford scholar who rode into battle at the head of an Arab army and changed history.

One reason for the contentiousness over his memory has to do with the terrain he traversed. Lawrence was both eyewitness to and partici- pant in some of the most pivotal events leading to the creation of the modern Middle East, and this is a corner of the earth where even the simplest assertion is dissected and parsed and argued over. In the unend- ing debates over the roots of that region’s myriad fault lines, Lawrence has been alternately extolled and pilloried, sanctified, demonized, even diminished to a footnote, as political goals require.

Then there was Lawrence’s own personality. A supremely private and hidden man, he seemed intent on baffling all those who would try to know him. A natural leader of men, or a charlatan? A man without fear, or both a moral and physical coward? Long before any of his biographers, it was Lawrence who first attached these contradictory characteristics—and many others—to himself. Joined to this was a mischievous streak, a story- teller’s delight in twitting those who believed in and insisted on “facts.” The episode at Buckingham Palace is a case in point. In subsequent years, Lawrence offered several accounts of what had transpired in the ballroom, each at slight variance with the others and at even greater variance to the recollections of eyewitnesses. Earlier than most, Lawrence seemed to embrace the modern concept that history was malleable, that truth was what people were willing to believe.

Among writers on Lawrence, these contradictions have often spurred descents into minutiae, arcane squabbles between those seeking to tarnish his reputation  and those seeking to defend it. Did he truly make a par- ticular desert crossing in forty-nine hours, as he claimed, or might it have taken a day longer? Did he really play such a signal role in Battle X, or does more credit belong to British officer Y or to Arab chieftain Z? Only slightly less tedious are those polemicists wishing to pigeonhole him for ideological ends. Lawrence, the great defender of the Jewish people or the raging anti-Semite? The enlightened progressive striving for Arab inde- pendence or the crypto-imperialist? Lawrence left behind such a large body of writing, and his views altered so dramatically over the course of his life, that it’s possible with careful cherry-picking to both confirm and refute most every accolade and accusation made of him.

Beyond being tiresome, the cardinal sin of these debates is that they obscure the most beguiling riddle of Lawrence’s story: How did he do it? How did a painfully shy Oxford archaeologist without a single day of military training become the battlefield commander of a foreign revolu- tionary army, the political master strategist who foretold so many of the Middle Eastern calamities to come?
The short answer might seem somewhat anticlimactic: Lawrence was able to become “Lawrence of Arabia” because no one was paying much attention.

Amid the vast slaughter occurring across the breadth of Europe in World War I, the Middle Eastern theater  of that war was of markedly secondary importance. Within that theater, the Arab Revolt to which Lawrence became affiliated was, to use his own words, “a sideshow of a sideshow.” In terms of lives and money and matériel expended, in terms of the thousands of hours spent in weighty consultation between gener- als and kings and prime ministers, the imperial plotters of Europe were infinitely more concerned over the future status of Belgium, for example, than with what might happen in the impoverished and distant regions of the Middle East. Consequently, in the view of British war planners, if a young army officer left largely to his own devices could sufficiently organize the fractious Arab tribes to harass their Turkish enemy, all to the good. Of course, it wouldn’t be very long before both the Arab Revolt and the Middle East became vastly more important to the rest of the world, but this was a possibility barely considered—indeed, it could hardly have been imagined—at the time.

But this isn’t the whole story either. That’s because the low regard with which British war strategists viewed events in the Middle East found reflection in the other great warring powers. As a result, these powers, too, relegated their military efforts in the region to whatever could be spared from the more important  battlefields elsewhere, consigning the task of intelligence gathering and fomenting rebellion and forging alli- ances to men with résumés just as modest and unlikely as Lawrence’s.
As with Lawrence, these other competitors in the field tended to be young, wholly untrained  for the missions they were given, and largely unsupervised. And just as with their more famous British counterpart, to capitalize on their extraordinary freedom of action, these men drew upon a very particular set of personality traits—cleverness, bravery, a talent for treachery—to both forge their own destiny and alter the course of history.

Among them was a fallen American aristocrat in his twenties who, as the only American field intelligence officer in the Middle East during World War I, would strongly influence his nation’s postwar policy in the region, even as he remained on the payroll of Standard Oil of New York. There  was the young German scholar who, donning the camouflage of Arab robes, would seek to foment an Islamic jihad against the Western colonial powers, and who would carry his “war by revolution” ideas into the Nazi era. Along with them was a Jewish scientist who, under the cover of working for the Ottoman  government, would establish an elaborate anti-Ottoman spy ring and play a crucial role in creating a Jewish home- land in Palestine.

If little remembered  today, these men shared something else with their British counterpart. Like Lawrence, they were not the senior gener- als who charted battlefield campaigns in the Middle East, nor the elder statesmen who drew lines on maps in the war’s aftermath. Instead, their roles were perhaps even more profound: it was they who created the con- ditions on the ground that brought those campaigns to fruition, who made those postwar policies and boundaries possible. History is always a collab- orative effort, and in the case of World War I an effort that involved liter- ally millions of players, but to a surprising degree, the subterranean and complex game these four men played, their hidden loyalties and personal duels, helped create the modern Middle East and, by inevitable extension, the world we live in today.

Yet within this small galaxy of personalities there remain at least two compelling reasons why T. E. Lawrence and his story should reside firmly at its center. The  modern Middle East was largely created by the British. It was they who carried the Allied war effort in the region during World War I and who, at its close, principally fashioned its peace. It was a peace pre- saged by the nickname given the region by covetous Allied leaders in war- time: “the Great Loot.” As one of Britain’s most important and influential agents in that arena, Lawrence was intimately connected to all, good and bad, that was to come.

Second, and as the episode at Buckingham Palace attests, this was an experience that left him utterly  changed, unrecognizable in certain respects even to himself. Victory carries a moral burden the vanquished never know, and as an architect of momentous events, Lawrence would be uniquely haunted by what he saw and did during the Great Loot.

Revue de presse

“Scott Anderson’s fine, sophisticated, richly detailed Lawrence in Arabia is filled with invaluably complex and fine-tuned information…. eminently readable…. For those already fascinated by Lawrence’s exploits and familiar with his written accounts of them, Mr. Anderson’s thoughtful, big-picture version only enriches the story it tells….. illuminating…. Beyond having a keen ear for memorable wording, Mr. Anderson has a gift for piecing together the conflicting interests of warring parties….. Lawrence in Arabia is a fascinating book, the best work of military history in recent memory and an illuminating analysis of issues that still loom large today. It’s a big book in every sense, with a huge amount of terrain to cover…. It’s high praise for both the visually grand film and this grandly ambitious book to say that they do have a lot in common.”—The New York Times

"Thrilling....a work as galvanizing and cinematic as Lean’s masterpiece....It’s a huge assignment, explaining the modern roots of the region as it emerged from the wreckage of war. But it is one that Anderson handles with panache....Anderson brilliantly evokes the upheavals and head-spinningly complex politics of an era....His story is character-driven, exhilaratingly so — Prufer, Yale, and Aaronsohn’s stories are richly sketched....shows how individuals both shape history and are, at the same time, helpless before the dictates of great power politics."
--The Boston Globe

“No four-hour movie can do real justice to the bureaucratic fumblings, the myriad spies, heroes and villains, the dense fugue of humanity at its best and worst operating in the Mideast war theater of 1914-17. Thrillingly, Scott Anderson's Lawrence in Arabia (four stars out of four) does exactly that, weaving enormous detail into its 500-plus pages with a propulsive narrative thread”
--USA Today, 4 Stars
"Expansive, mesmerizing, and—dare one say—cinematically detailed "Lawrence in Arabia" exemplifies the ways biography and history can enhance each other."
--The Wall Street Journal

“Among the many individual stories of World War I that will doubtless be told and retold for the centenary years between 2014 and 2018, that of T.E. Lawrence stands out from all the rest…[Anderson’s] book could not be better timed.  As global attention is drawn to Syria and Egypt, it is arresting to look back 100 years and see a familiar picture….The multi-character approach has the great virtue of opening up the story’s complexity.  Through his large cast, Anderson is able to explore the muddles of the early 20th-century Middle East from several distinct and enlightening perspectives.  Furthermore, while he maintains an invigorating pace, his fabulous details are given room to illuminate.  And the book is thick with them, whether it is Lawrence attempting to collar a live leopard; Prufer arranging 10 days of “boozing, dancing and flirting” with a wayward German princess for Abbas Hilmi, the deposed khedive of Egypt; or Aaronsohn fending off a strikingly biblical plague of locusts.… [An] engrossing, thoughtful and intricate account.” 
--The New York Times Book Review [Editor’s Choice]

“Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia is a gripping narrative featuring T.E. Lawrence, the adventurer, Arabist, and spy whose exploits in the First World War helped to shape the modern Middle East… A must read for anyone trying to understand the region.”
-- Lionel Barber, The Financial Times

"Brilliant....a dazzling accomplishment that combines superb historical research with a compelling narrative equal to any courtroom thriller."
--The Seattle Times

“Anderson carries his erudition lightly, but there's enough scholarship there to make an academic proud. As with the best kind of yarns, you don't realize what you've learned until the narrator goes silent.”
--The Daily Beast
“A terrifically well put-together book.”
--Tom Ashbrook, On Point

"In this well-researched, sweeping account of the life and times of T.E. Lawrence, author Scott Anderson offers a fresh and compelling look at the making of the modern Middle East....a gripping narrative that makes this nearly 600-page account hard to put down....The book’s broader achievement is that it reveals the incompetence and deceit of Lawrence’s British superiors in shaping the postwar Middle East. It also offers a revealing account of other British agents and those from the United States and Germany in the remarkable events of the period."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Cuts through legend and speculation to offer perhaps the clearest account of Lawrence’s often puzzling actions and personality.....Anderson has produced a compelling account of Western hubris, derring-do, intrigue and outright fraud that hastened — and complicated — the troubled birth of the modern Middle East."
--The Washington Post

"Anderson’s well-told tale of war, betrayal and depressing short-sightedness is also a vivid reminder of why the Middle East continues to preoccupy us."
--Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Be prepared to be surprised. Scott Anderson is a great writer and I guarantee that you’ll be startled by what he’s uncovered about T.E. Lawrence’s role in what he himself called “a sideshow of a sideshow,” otherwise known as the Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War I…..Scott Anderson’s magisterial study puts a complicated picture in context, showing how major powers’ old follies led to the wars, religious strife and brutal dictatorships that now pollute the development of the Middle East.”
--The Buffalo News
"Renders painfully clear how deeply the political structure of the Middle East has been born of eccentric fantasies."

“Anderson has speckled this cast with little known associates of Lawrence who are just as enigmatic as he and probably just as important in the creation of the mess we know as the modern Middle East….Exciting”
--Hudson Star Observer
"It's thorough research clothed in smoothly written prose, Anderson's history strikes a perfect balance between scope and detail about a remarkable and mysterious character."
--Booklist, starred review

"A well-fleshed portrait of T.E. Lawrence brought in burnished relief against other scoundrels in the Arabian narrative....A lively, contrasting study of hubris and humility."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Readers seeking to understand why turmoil has been so omnipresent in the Middle East will benefit from Anderson's easy prose, which makes liberal use of primary sources and research, but reads like a political thriller."
--Publishers Weekly

"Anderson's genius is to show how the actions of these four men intertwined on many levels....His research is extensive and well integrated into the story, while the prose is as addictive and sophisticated as the best John le Carré thriller."
--Shelf Talker

“Lawrence of Arabia is said to have reinvented warfare, and Scott Anderson has now reinvented Lawrence. By placing him alongside the other adventurers and spies who roamed the Arabian war theater, Anderson brilliantly illuminates how the modern Middle East came to be.  The research in this book is so daringly original, and the writing so spectacular, that it feels like I'm reading about the topic for the first time. A deep and utterly captivating reading experience.” 
--Sebastian Junger, New York Times bestselling author of WAR and THE PERFECT STORM
"A startlingly rich and revealing portrait of one of history’s most iconic figures. Equally satisfying is the cast of obscure German and American agents nearly as eccentric as Lawrence himself.  They exercised such outsized influence on shaping the world as we know it that reading about them here is not only revelatory but practically surreal. Anderson is an exquisite writer and dogged researcher, whose accounts of century-old brutalities are made utterly convincing by the knowledge that he has personally witnessed the sort of offhanded horror he’s unearthed in archives. Lovers of big 20th-century history will be in nirvana."  
--Tom Reiss, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of THE BLACK COUNT and THE ORIENTALIST

"An amazing accomplishment. LAWRENCE IN ARABIA captures the bravado, surreality, grandeur of the Middle East in the birth throes of the 20th century. Anderson employs the highest order of dramatic narrative to create an indelible portrait of a great and enduring figure of war and politics.  Along for the show is a cast of characters drawn straight from Graham Greene.  This is history of the most vivid and relevant order."
--Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author of HORSE SOLDIERS and IN HARM’S WAY

LAWRENCE IN ARABIA is a work of serious research and powerful insight, but it is so rich in incredible stories and glittering details that it felt like a guilty pleasure while I was reading it. Completely absorbing, sweeping in scope and riveting from the first word, this is a book that will stay with me for a long time.”
--Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC and RIVER OF DOUBT

“Few characters in history can match T.E. Lawrence for adventure, intrigue, or sheer enigma. Scott Anderson, an indefatigable reporter well-acquainted with the Arab world, has carefully reconstructed Lawrence's shadowy realm. Anderson shows how Lawrence, along with a surprisingly small cast of lesser-known rogues and operatives, laid the groundwork, wittingly or not, for the mess that is the modern Middle East. Here is an intimate history painted on a very large canvas, with one fantastically charismatic—and fabulously flawed—man at the dusty center of the tale.”
--Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of GHOST SOLDIERS and HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.5 étoiles sur 5  928 commentaires
268 internautes sur 288 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Larger than Life 5 juillet 2013
Par The Ginger Man - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Scott Anderson brings an interesting background to this latest history of the modern Middle East. His father was an agricultural advisor to the US government. As a result, Anderson grew up largely in Taiwan and Korea, although he graduated from Gainesville High School in Florida. A novelist and veteran war reporter who has covered foreign conflicts for two decades in five countries, Anderson spent four years researching Lawrence in Arabia. He combines a feeling for foreign locales and an understanding of the realities of the battlefield with an extensive use of primary documents. The result is provocative history that reads like a political thriller.

Given the strategic importance of the Mid-East today, it is fascinating to read of the disproportionately large impact of some fairly low level functionaries in this "sideshow of a sideshow" (Lawrence's own words) in the run up to World War I. German academic and womanizer Curt Pruefer works to foment Arab jihad against British rule under the protection of Turkish rulers. Aaron Aaronsohn was a renowned agronomist and dedicated Zionist who gained the trust of the Ottoman governor by trying to relieve Syria of a plague of locusts. Twenty-seven year old American William Yale transitioned in a short eighteen months from roustabout duties in an Oklahoma oil field to Standard Oil's main agent charged with locating and securing oil in central Judea. Abdul-lah ibn Hussein is assigned by his father, Emir Hussein of Mecca, to sound out the British on supporting an Arab revolt in the Hejaz. Marching into history and legend was TE Lawrence who achieved the wholly unlikely transition from 21 year old archeologist in Syria in 1914 to head of a foreign Arab army in 1919, without a single day of military training.

"Lawrence was able to become 'Lawrence of Arabia,'" submits Anderson "because no one was paying much attention." Amidst the vast slaughter in Europe, the Mid-East theater was of distinctly secondary importance. Against this backdrop, the author shows both the poor decisions made by governments separated from action on the ground and the void that was filled by individuals such as those listed above. Through this lens, the reader sees the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the transition of European imperialism, the first steps in Western oil exploration, a side stage of the first world war and the creation of the modern Middle East.

Anderson balances all of this with a driving narrative that focuses more on political developments than on camel charges through the desert. When battles do occur, such as the failed British attack at Gallipoli, Anderson incorporates Lawrence's correspondence ("The Med-Ex came out, beastly ill-prepared"), eyewitness accounts ("the sea near the shore was a blood red colour, which could be seen hundreds of yards away") and unencrypted cables from War Secretary Kitchener. The strong narrative result bears the stamp of the author's experience as a war correspondent.

History should not be this much fun to read. Anderson's work includes imperial decisions, tribal revolt, the discovery of oil and larger than life individuals in an account that has significant implication for headlines in 2013. Lawrence in Arabia is the perfect summer book. It is important yet vastly entertaining, story as much as history, epic in scale yet attuned to the individuals who breathe life into it. Lawrence in Arabia is one of the quicker and most rewarding 500 page reads you are likely to undertake this year.
125 internautes sur 133 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 What Lawrence (and a few other people) did in the Middle East 31 juillet 2013
Par Deb Nam-Krane - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
T. E. Lawrence was legendary even before he died, and some of it was genuinely earned. What makes him a favorite in popular imagination is that he was disdainful of the myth that surrounded him- even when he was instrumental in perpetuating it. He is also, perhaps, seen as a reflection of what many commoners might have felt in the midst of the morass that became World War I: determined to get through the byzantine (no pun intended) negotiations and considerations that were foisted upon the world by outdated principles to arrive at an outcome that would allow his country some honor and the Arabs he was trying to help a measure of dignity that would justify the sacrifices he helped convince them to make. That he made great sacrifices himself is arguably the primary reason there was any honor or dignity to the outcome at all, but the compromises Lawrence had to make to get that far weighed far heavier on him.

This volume gives an extensive, nearly blow by blow account of how Lawrence came to the Middle East, why he became attached to the war effort and, most importantly, what he did. Anderson also explores the lives and careers of others who influenced the war and to some extent the outcome, including the German academic Curt Prufer, the American oilman William Yale and the Romanian-Palestinian-Jewish agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn. What all of three of the men shared was that they were also at one point spies, and each of them was trying to play the conflict in the Ottoman Empire to achieve their own ends. To do that, all of them needed the mercurial Djemal Pasha, one of the leaders of the Young Turks, in one way or another.

Lawrence, however, is the star. The quintessential outsider-looking-in, he perhaps believed more fully in the values of his civilization than the people who got to experience it more fully. He knew enough to distrust institutions, but his childhood interest in medieval warfare also led him to believe in doing the right thing (although he would never have used such a maudlin statement to describe himself).

Why did he identify so personally with Arab independence? Perhaps because his time in the region was his happiest memory; perhaps because there were aspects of the culture that reminded him of medieval Europe; perhaps because he had no love for imperial manipulation. Regardless of why, up until the very end of the war, he considered that his cause, not protecting British interests in the region.

There are many points during the book at which the reader will groan at the diplomatic machinations and lost chances. The description of the beginning of the Armenian genocide will make the reader wince- much as it did both Faisal Hussein, Lawrence's military and political partner in the region, and Djemal Pasha, who tried to offer as much protection to the survivors as he was capable of. The specter of what happened to the Armenians also haunted the Zionists both inside and outside of the region.

Zionism was perhaps less controversial in the 1910s, but not by much. It, like every other consideration of the war, wasn't considered on its own merits but by what strategic advantage it could offer its sponsors or detractors. Lawrence himself was almost virulently anti-Zionist during the war in large part because he thought the proposals were ill thought-out and would further compromise the Arabs. However, by the Paris Peace Conference, he arranged for Faisal and Chaim Weizmann, the leader who would become the first President of Israel, to support each other's desiderata in the peace settlement. (Obviously, the agreements did not ultimately bear fruit.)

While much is made of the disastrous Sykes-Picot agreement (and certainly the description of Mark Sykes is another moment that will make the reader cringe), Anderson notes in the epilogue that it wasn't the previously discredited agreement that paved the way for the modern mess in the region. During the Paris Peace Conference, the prime ministers of both England and France wanted to make sure that they presented a united front against the other phantom of World War I- the idealistic but arrogant Woodrow Wilson. Sykes-Picot would have been an improvement over what they ultimately came up with.

Finally, it seems you can't talk about Lawrence without talking about what did or didn't happen to him in Deraa. Up to a point, the interest is justified: Lawrence gave three different accounts during his lifetime, and some of his details don't seem to be physically plausible. Anderson comes to the conclusion that Lawrence was most probably tortured *and* raped, and his inability to offer an accurate account of it was due probably to both the social mores of his era (Anderson guesses that Lawrence submitted after he had already been tortured) and the psychic trauma the event would have caused anyone. Regardless, there is a certain bloodthirst in Lawrence that we only see after Deraa- and this is what mars the Lawrence legend more than anything else.

Highly recommended for both observers of the modern Middle East and students of World War I history.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fascinating look at the Middle East as sausage being made during WW I 21 juillet 2013
Par Steven A. Peterson - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
This is a fascinating book, for the most part well written. While the key character is T. E. Lawrence, the book is formally structured as an examination of the roles of and sometimes interaction among four characters: T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), Curt Prufer (umlaut over the u), Aaron Aaronson, and William Yale.

A brief note about each. Lawrence began World War I on an archaeological expedition--and ended up as a celebrity. Prufer was a German who worked for German interests in the Middle East. Aaronsohn was a Zionist and an agronomist trying to enhance agriculture in Jewish areas. He also developed a spy network as World War I broke out. Yale was of the family after whom the college was named. He was, at the outset of WW I, an official for Standard Oil of New York (now Mobil) seeking access to lands that might be rich in oil. During the war, he became a representative of the United States' foreign policy apparatus.

The book provides considerable depth to each of these persons--but Lawrence is at the center. He is portrayed as somewhat enigmatic, someone who was almost a tragic character. While he fought for Arab independence, he knew of nefarious schemes by the English and French to be dominant forces in the Middle East after the war's end. He was a decent person who ended up tolerating acts of violence (such as watching as prisoners were killed after surrendering). The author suggests that, after a period of time at war, he became someone afflicted with Post traumatic stress disorder.

Aaronsohn, too, was an important figure. He tried to advance Zionist ideals and saw that working with Great Britain might be the best pathway. He developed an espionage network in the Middle East, with his sister as a key player. It took a great effort to get the British officials in the Middle East to pay attention. The spy network suffered greatly for his vision. The story also tells of the tension between Aaronsohn and a key leader among Zionists--Chaim Weizmann.

Other important actors are portrayed as well. The Hussein family, whose father and sons became important leaders in the Middle East after the war, albeit compromised in many respects by the English and French. Then, the ibn Saud family (ultimately becoming the rulers of Saudi Arabia).

The book does a very good job of outlining the complex interactions among countries, the cynicism of European powers in the Middle East, the negative results of this cynicism. The development of the Middle East was perverted by European efforts at domination, as the end of the book attests.

One final feature of note--the discussion of the fates of the major characters in this drama.

All in all, this is a fine volume, and one well worth looking at if one wishes to understand the roots of some current dysfunction in the region.
34 internautes sur 38 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Fine Book For Those Who Are Interested 5 août 2013
Par James Ellsworth - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I came to this book a bit late and many honest and fine reviews already exist. This work is everything good that these reviewers say. It is very well-written. The author provides a large bibliography of both primary and secondary sources that assisted him in this massive endeavour. A generous section of end notes, organized by chapter, helps to close out the book and to document or expand on key points. About twenty-five pages have been set aside for an index but my pre-publication copy leaves these pages blank (but numbered and identified)so I cannot comment on how helpful it might be. The intention of these features is to make the work more accessible to students and to readers who might wish to pick and choose the parts of these events that draw their interest. In short, this is a work of scholarship that offers a view for historians as well as being a 'good read' for the interested public, including World War I buffs, persons interested in the Ottoman Empire and persons interested in an account of how the current muddle in the Middle East came to pass.

The 'news' for most readers in this subject is the angle played by Standard Oil of New York (Socony), more or less as amoral war profiteers (a la Krupp in Germany)and, more particularly, the detailed and long-running narratives about players other than T E Lawrence. They seem to have been every bit as interesting and adventurous as Lawrence, albeit less driven to test themselves physically. As other reviewers have noted, a screen writer could not imagine a more diverse or colourful cast of characters through which to follow the historic events that shaped the Middle East from WWI on to the present day.

At the same time, one finds a layered and nuanced look at how France, Britain, Germany and Turkey developed policies regarding the region or tried to govern it or to shape the way in which it would be governed after the war. Fiascos like the British campaign for Gallipoli do not show Winston Churchill in his finest hour but the book is frank about what was and a bit wistful seeming about what could have been if local advice had been followed to focus a landing on Alexandretta. Similarly, the author expands his view from an Arabia-focused account offered by Lawrence to discuss the ways in which German armed forces and advisors worked with the Ottomans to try to topple British rule in Egypt and to deny passage of British colonial forces to Europe through the Suez Canal. This continuing line throughout the book was 'new information' to me.

Even so, at 500 plus pages (without counting the documentation and index), this book will seem long and perhaps a bit familiar or repetitive for all but the most interested reader or the reader who is new to the whole topic. I have read about Lawrence and have read his own book; lived in Saudi Arabia and visited the remains of Turkish fortifications and have seen the movie. Even so, I found myself skipping around in the book, saving parts for 'later' or becoming impatient with the layering of detail that is necessary to a work of history. The writing has been interesting enough and the new material has been fascinating enough that I have kept on coming back to it. Less interested persons might not.
25 internautes sur 27 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A must read on the creation of the modern Middle East 8 août 2013
Par Indy Reviewer - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
About the only real quibble with Scott Anderson's "Lawrence in Arabia" is that it is slightly mistitled. Its subtitle of "Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East" more accurately reflects the book's focus, as it brilliantly describes exactly how the British - and to a lesser degree, the French, Germans, and Ottoman Empire - bungled the birth of nations in the Middle East to such a degree that their mistakes still haunt the world 90 years later. Using primary source research, much of which seems to have been skipped by other authors, this account surpasses Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace as the single best reference on the subject and stands alongside MacMillan's Paris 1919 as a must read on how the modern world was created. 5 stars.

Much of the story of the arrogance and blunders that created the modern Middle East is well known. Sykes-Picot, the disaster of the negotiations at Versailles in 1919, and the British campaigns in Palestine and Iraq have all received substantial attention by scholars. Anderson frames the conflict with a focus on 4 players that neatly represent their countries' interests. T. E. Lawrence is well-known, of course, but the three other players are not: William Yale, a Standard Oil employee assigned to buy petroleum leases in Palestine who by 1918 ended up becoming the United States' "expert" on the region, Aaron Aaronsohn, a Jewish agronomist who founded an anti-Ottoman spy ring and viciously battled with Chaim Weizmann and other Zionists, and Curt Prüfer, a brilliant German spy who was among the first to see the potential of using Arab liberation as a weapon against current rulers and who, incredibly, recruited Weizmann's sister as his lover and one of his spies. By interweaving their stories and other players like Sykes, French Colonel Edouard Bremond, Sharif Hussein and his sons, Dejmal Pasha, and the British military and intelligence establishment, Anderson constructs an extremely accessible history.

At the center of this tale is Lawrence, and Anderson provides enough valuable insights on his character and actions to make this book be worth a read for that alone. What is well-known about Lawrence is that his rise to prominence came almost as an accident and that his autobiography - which was originally intended as a very limited release for his friends - exaggerates much and muddles up more. What is not is that Lawrence's leadership in the Arab revolt was quite personal and risky - Lawrence seemed to be outright seeking death on a number of occasions - yet arguably didn't have as much impact as his two great strategic observations. Despite lacking any military training, Lawrence deduced the vulnerability of Alexandretta and the impact of isolating Ottoman troops in Medina long before anyone on the British staff did. The second played a central role in British strategy, and if his advice on the first had been taken the Ottoman Empire might have collapsed as early as 1915 with the arrogant disaster of Gallipoli avoided.

By the end of the book, Lawrence is more pitiful than heroic. A five minute conversation between Lloyd George and Clemenceau at Versailles superseded 4 years of fighting and hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Middle East, and directly contributed to the mess that has existed there for the last 90 years. Lawrence's observation on ibn-Saud and Wahabism proved remarkably prescient, and the rivalry between British Egypt and British India military and political staffs that helped create the mess is almost unbelievable. About the only thing missing here is the postwar chaos and look at the Cairo Conference and the work in 1921 by Lawrence and Winston Churchill to provide a temporary fix to the mess made of the region, which Fromkin covers effectively.

There's a lot more that can be said for the topics covered in this book, but the strongest recommendation is simply that even readers quite familiar with the region and history will learn something new here. 5 stars, and a must read.
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