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War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

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The subscription details associated with this account need to be updated. Please update your billing details here to continue enjoying your subscription. Your subscription will end shortly. The agreement was initially kept from Hussein and British officials in Cairo.

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According to Anderson, Lawrence recalled that, when he and his colleagues on the Cairo military intelligence staff found out about Sykes-Picot, they had "a collective urge to vomit. In early February , Lawrence committed an act of treason by revealing the contents of Sykes-Picot to Faisal. Anderson argues that Lawrence was willing to betray his own government because the Arabs were being encouraged to fight and die in return for meaningless promises that had been traded away.

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

Anderson further speculates that Lawrence was also infuriated by what he regarded as Britain's perfidy: Sykes-Picot destroyed his boyhood fantasies of serving as the liberator of an enslaved people. In mid-November , the newly installed Bolshevik government, in a move to dissociate itself from collaboration with discredited former allies, published the text of the Sykes-Picot agreement.


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Revelation of the document intensified widespread Arab anger against Britain and France and led Faisal to enter into a dialogue with his Turkish foes. According to Anderson, "Lawrence no longer regarded himself as fighting for Great Britain, but for Arab independence.

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Lawrence's dream of liberating Syria for the Arabs was shattered shortly thereafter. French forces began to enter Damascus on November 1, , and in April , the San Remo conference affirmed the territorial division initially envisioned in Sykes-Picot, but with some modifications. Britain took over the administration of Iraq and an enlarged Palestine that included substantial territory east of the Jordan River.

France gained control over Syria, and in July unceremoniously ousted Faisal, the self-declared king of Syria, from Damascus. Shortly thereafter, the British installed Faisal as king of Iraq. Anderson sheds new light on Lawrence's attitude toward Zionism and the much lesser-known interactions that took place between him and Zionist leaders and activists both before and after the issuance of the Balfour Declaration.


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When told that the Zionists intended to establish an independent Jewish nation in Palestine by buying all the land and forcing the fellaheen off the land, Lawrence responded that the Jewish community in Palestine had two choices: coexist with the Arab majority or have their throats slashed.

Lawrence also objected strongly to the Balfour Declaration of November 2, , which committed the British government to support and facilitate "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

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State Department "special agent" in Cairo, Lawrence is reported to have characterized the Balfour Declaration as a dangerous, unwise and foolhardy policy. With remarkable prescience, Lawrence warned, "If a Jewish state is to be created in Palestine, it will have to be done by force of arms and maintained by the force of arms amid an overwhelmingly hostile population.

In May , Lawrence did not support a British initiative to create an entente between the Arab rebel leadership and the Zionists. When ordered by his superiors to arrange and participate in a meeting between Faisal and Chaim Weizmann, president of the English Zionist Federation, Lawrence failed to respond and conveniently disappeared on a reconnaissance mission when the Weizmann-Faisal encounter eventually took place in Aqaba on June 4, Lawrence was convinced that the meeting would merely strengthen Faisal's and Hussein's rivals in the Middle East.

A short while later, Lawrence finally met with Weizmann in Ramleh. Now that you've added something to your bag, you can continue to the checkout, or keep shopping! Please Note: While we endeavour to have all books on our website in stock, in the event that a book has sold out, we will advise you and, if requested, have the book supplied as soon as possible.

Lawrence, 'a sideshow of a sideshow'. Amidst the slaughter in European trenches, the Western combatants paid scant attention to the Middle Eastern theatre.

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. At the centre of it all was Lawrence.