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British Archaeologist T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, 1918

Syria.  Colonel T. E. Lawrence in Arab Dress

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_5919
 
Document Description
Photograph of T.E. Lawrence in Arab dress, 1918. More popularly referred to as "Lawrence of Arabia," Lawrence was a famous British archaeologist and army officer who was an active participant in the 1916-18 Arab revolt against the Turks. He died on May 19, 1935 at the age of 46 as a result of injuries sustained from a motorcycle accident.
 
Questions
What was T.E. Lawrence’s profession before the war?
Why was T.E. Lawrence so successful in working with the Arab population during the First World War?
Based on the photograph, give one reason why the Arabs were so willing to trust and work with T.E. Lawrence.
 
Historical Challenges
T.E. Lawrence was able to get the Arabs to cooperate with him in part by promising them independence. Under the terms of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed in 1916, the Arabs were not given independence, but divided up among Britain, France, and Russia. This led to a mass regional war among the Kurds under Russia, the Shiites under France, and the Sunnis under Britain. What impact does this agreement still have on Middle Eastern affairs today?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Compare and contrast the events depicted in the movie, Lawrence of Arabia, with the actual events of Lawrence’s life.
Math: T.E. Lawrence was born in 1888. How old was he when he began his service in WWI in 1914?
 
Resources
Barr, James. Setting the Desert on Fire: T.E. Lawrence and Britain’s Secret War in Arabia, 1916-1918. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2008. ISBN: 0393060403
Ebert, Richard. Lawrence of Arabia. Chicago, IL: Raintree Publishing, 1980. ISBN: 9780839301509
 

 

Historical Context
Thomas Edward Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, was an archaeologist who had worked on the British Museum’s excavation of the Hittite city of Carchemish on the River Euphrates.  His experience working with the native Arab villagers proved valuable when he became a British liaison officer in the Arab Revolt during the First World War.  He fought with the Arabs against the Ottomans and, through his cooperation with General Allenby of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, played a large role in the eventual success of the British forces in the Sinai-Palestine campaign.  After the war, Lawrence continued to work for Arab independence and also had a successful career as a writer.  His works include Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an account of his service with the Arab Revolt, and The Mint, an account of his later service as an anonymous recruit in the Royal Air Force.
 
Essential Question
How does geography determine the effects of war?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the man in the phototgraph and explain his acceptance by the Arab population.