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Behind the Lawrence Legend

The Forgotten Few Who Shaped the Arab Revolt

Philip Walker (Historian and retired archaeologist)



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Oxford University Press
04 January 2018
History; Middle Eastern history; National liberation & independence, post-colonialism; First World War
T. E. Lawrence became world-famous as "Lawrence of Arabia" after helping Sherif Hussein of Mecca gain independence from Turkey during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18. His achievements, however, would have been impossible without the unsung efforts of a forgotten band of fellow officers and spies. This groundbreaking account by Philip Walker interweaves the compelling stories of Colonel Cyril Wilson and a colorful supporting cast with the narrative of Lawrence and the desert campaign. These men's lost tales provide a remarkable and fresh perspective on Lawrence and the Arab Revolt.

While Lawrence and others blew up trains in the desert, Wilson and his men carried out their shadowy intelligence and diplomatic work. His deputies rooted out anti-British soldiers who were trying to sabotage the revolt. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Lionel Gray, a cipher officer, provided a gateway into unknown aspects of the revolt through his previously unpublished photographs and eyewitness writings. Wilson's crucial influence underpinned all these missions and steadied the revolt on a number of occasions when it could have collapsed. Without Wilson and his circle there would have been no "Lawrence of Arabia."

Wilson's band mostly fell through the cracks of history into obscurity. Behind the Lawrence Legend reveals their vital impact and puts Lawrence's efforts into context, helping to set the record straight for one of the most beguiling and iconic characters of the twentieth century.
By:   Philip Walker (Historian and retired archaeologist)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 242mm,  Width: 161mm,  Spine: 23mm
Weight:   694g
ISBN:   9780198802273
ISBN 10:   0198802277
Pages:   320
Publication Date:   04 January 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Philip Walker is an historian and a retired archaeologist who spent many years working for English Heritage. He has travelled in Libya, Palestine, Morocco, Xinjiang (the Muslim far west of China), and other parts of Central Asia. He lives in Cambridge and this is his first book.

Reviews for Behind the Lawrence Legend: The Forgotten Few Who Shaped the Arab Revolt

After another round of books on T. E. Lawrence 'of Arabia' published on the war's centennial, it seems scarcely credible that anything new can be said on the subject. But Philip Walker has discovered an astonishing wealth of new material in private collections. The 'Forgotten Few' peers beneath the Lawrence legend to reveal the seamy underbelly of the Arab Revolt. * Sean McMeekin, Professor of History, Bard College, New York * An excellent and fascinating complement to Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It reveals the hidden stories of his brothers-in-arms and what they achieved during the Arab Revolt. * Lawrence James, English Historian and Writer * This excellent account of those who underpinned the fighters in the Arab Revolt reminds us of the hardships and challenges of war in early twentieth century Arabia. By looking behind the lines Walker shows us the real scale of Lawrences achievement and the achievements of those who supported him. * Sir Mark Allen, ex-Foreign Service * A gripping account of the Arab Revolt as seen through the eyes of the men on the ground in Jidda. Walker has uncovered remarkable new documentation and photographs that shed valuable new light on the Great War in Arabia. An outstanding book for the centenary of the Revolt. * Eugene Rogan, Director of the Middle East Centre, St Antony's College, Oxford *

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