Lawrence of Arabia: Colonel T.E. Lawrence, CB, DSO, Places and Objects of Interest By Paul Kendall

     Paul Kendall’s new book on the material history of the Lawrence of Arabia legend is chock full of amazing photographs that provide context to the story of T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt, which is to be expected from a visual history. Kendall goes beyond merely “curating content” and provides readers with mini-essays regarding each photograph and artifact presented. His writing is both straightforward and descriptive and does much to enhance the illustrations which are the book’s focus.

     Fans who learned of Lawrence through Peter O’Toole’s Oscar-nominated performance in the eponymous film may be forgiven for envisioning Lawrence emerging into the world fully formed in 1916, ready to shape the course of Arab history through the force of his will. Students who made a more thorough study of Lawrence’s career by reading his work such as Seven Pillars of Wisdom or the analysis of experts like Mack’s A Prince of Our Disorder perhaps better understand how Lawrence’s background prepared him to seize his opportunities, as well as how his work contributed to rather than created the modern Middle East, Kendall’s work goes further by immersing readers in Lawrence’s world, allowing them to see what he witnessed, rather than relying on their imaginations or a cinematographer’s interpretation.

     Kendall includes depictions of Lawrence’s childhood homes, schools attended, and locations he visited as he traveled through pre-war Europe and the Levant. Several locations from his war experiences during the Arab Revolt make up the lion’s share of the photographs, interspersed with illustrations of Lawrence’s artifacts such as his weapons, robes, camera and typewriter. The post-war England in which Lawrence tried to live in obscurity as a private soldier and then an airman is also heavily featured, interspersed with images of 1920s London, where Lawrence spent time with numerous friends and sponsors. His death is also commemorated with depictions of his grave and various memorials.

     Lawrence is the title figure and uniting spirit of the book thus Kendall includes numerous photographs of him in his roles as guerrilla leader, diplomat, and later as author. In addition to the period photos and pictures of artifacts, Kendall provides period maps, including ones drawn by Lawrence as part of his duties, further drawing readers close to his subject’s life and times. This book is not a stand-alone biography; however, it is an indispensable resource for anyone seriously studying the warrior-scholar whose name continues to be synonymous with successful guerilla warfare.

Lawrence of Arabia: Colonel T.E. Lawrence, CB, DSO, Places and Objects of Interest is available at Casemate Publishers and from a variety of retailers.

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