Veteran war journalist Scott Anderson’s new book Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East is a thrilling and revelatory narrative of one of the most epic and consequential periods in Twentieth century history—the Arab Revolt, and the secret game to control the Middle East. The book is receiving rave reviews and debuted at #6 this week’s on the New York Times List. It’s a must-read for history buffs.
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 the fallen scion of the American aristocracy, who traveled the Ottoman Empire on behalf of Standard Oil, dissembling to the Turks in order gain valuable oil concessions. At the center of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in Syria; by 1917 he was riding into legend at the head of an Arab army, as he fought a rearguard action against his own government and its imperial ambitions.
Based on four years of intensive primary document research, Lawrence in Arabia definitively 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.
Praise for Lawrence in Arabia:
““a fine story teller…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. Engrossing, thoughtful and intricate.” —New York Times Book Review
“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.”