Lawrence of Arabia's Secret Despatches During the Arab Revolt 1915-1919

Lawrence of Arabia's Secret Despatches During the Arab Revolt 1915-1919

Fabrizio Bagatti
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
This is quite an odd book and I imagine only really of interest to either a serious student of the Arab Revolt in general or T E Lawrence in particular. Edited by an Italian professor of translation and Lawrence of Arabia buff, what you get is nearly 300 pages of closely typed ‘despatches’ and a very useful contextual introduction to the conflict in the Middle East from the author without which it would be nigh on impossible to understand the subsequent chapters unless you knew the specialist history already.

What becomes apparent from the despatches (and there are many) is how Lawrence was hugely influenced by the culture and physical environment in which he operated and how he saw it from an often romanticised perspective. His views are fascinating and often extremely forthright – ‘Kurds, while robust, are rather stupid…are almost sure to fall out with each other’, ‘Jerusalem is a dirty town which all Semitic religions have made holy’, ‘Mohammedan Sunnis, Arabic speaking, identical in race and habit with Christians, marked off from them by a less mincing dialect.’, ‘Shia Mohammedans, dirty, ignorant, surly and fanatical’ and so on. The views are strongly worded but show his extraordinary in-depth knowledge of his operating environment - including a useful 27 point note on ‘how to lead arabs’, ‘…cling tight to your sense of humour, you will need it every day’ was one that I can personally vouch for!

So, a detailed book that is hard work unless you’re a Lawrence fan, but excellent scholarly stuff nevertheless, where else can you learn that a fast camel-postman can make it from Medina to Mecca in 3 days?

Overall 3.5 mushroom heads.

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