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Lawrence of Arabia’s Secret Dispatches during the Arab Revolt, 1915–1919 (Hardback)

Military P&S History > By Century > 20th Century WWI > By Year > 1915 WWI > By Year > 1916 WWI > By Year > 1917 WWI > By Year > 1918

By Fabrizio Bagatti
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399010184
Published: 2nd June 2021



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T. E. Lawrence’s dispatches during the Arab Revolt have been published before, but only in an edited and incomplete form, as they were printed for a strictly limited wartime readership in the Arab Bulletin. Now, in this scholarly edition, they are published in full for the first time. They give us a direct inside view of his dealings with the Arab leaders and show us how he presented them to his superiors in Cairo. These wartime writings reveal vividly his impressions of the periods he spent in the desert and the conditions he found there, and they record how the Arab uprising developed and how he became increasingly involved in it. They make fascinating reading for, in his sometimes outspoken way, he reported on the military potential of the Arab fighters and recommended how they should be supported in their struggle against the Ottoman empire.

This new collection of his dispatches is a valuable addition to the literature on Lawrence for it allows readers to trace the course of the revolt as he wrote about it at the time. They are printed in chronological order with full explanatory notes. The editor Fabrizio Bagatti provides a perceptive introduction which sets them in their wartime context, fills in the military and political background to the strategic situation in the Middle East and describes Lawrence’s important role as an intermediary between the Arabs and the British.

"An excellent work."

Middle East Policy Review

There are maps early on in the book which give you a very helpful understanding of the geography which is included in the book. Images contained in this book are wonderfully vivid, including Lawrence standing on a prayer rug in front of his headquarters, with his bodyguard in the desert. A further stunning image shows him in Arab robes on the Governors balcony in Jerusalem in 1918, whilst another shows him and his bodyguard on camels in the desert. Also included is an original handwritten page from Lawrence's report.

Jon Sandison

"...the dispatches themselves, backed up with maps and Fabrizo's notes, give a great feeling for the time. They vary from providing perspective on the war in the desert to bringing to life characters you may never have heard of, or customs you never knew about. For any student of Lawrence, this is a fascinating, new resource."

The Armourer Magazine, December 2021

"And because Lawrence was so gifted, both as a thinker and as a writer, and because he empathised so strongly with the Bedouin, their culture, and their cause, Bagatti's volume adds up to a personal narrative and commentary that carries us to the very heart of the Arab Revolt as it unfolded."

Neil Faulkner, Military History Matters, February/March 2022

Lawrence of Arabia’s Secret Dispatches during the Arab Revolt, 1915–1919 by Fabrizio Bagatti was just the book I wanted to read these days. I read for my studies about the mandates both from the point of self-determination as a human rights issue and from the view of the Middle East peoples who were organised into countries after WWI which had very little to do with the situation on the ground. So, this book was great for a number of reasons. Firstly it offered me a better insight into the Middle East and the relation Britain had with Feisal and the Arabs. On top of that, reading primary sources with such good and clear commentary is fantastic. I am highly recommending this book to anyone who is studying this period.

But this can be interesting for people who just like history and would want to know more about this troubled time in the 20th century history. Lawrence’s dispatches were published before, but this is the first time they are published in full. Reading his views and what was expected of him to talk about was fascinating. It makes for a good read for anyone with an interest in intelligence too. Some of the things he said were not-PC at all, especially about the Kurds. Other things showed profound insight into how they operate, for example, comparing the Turkish army with the Arab army. Furthermore, he talks about things like prices and how that affected food shortages for both humans and camels.

The dispatches are printed in chronological order and each one has an explanatory note, to put it in context. The book is very well structured and I enjoyed reading it.

5 stars

Read the full review here

Coffee and Books

"...a fine book for scholars and for anyone interested in the writing and exploits of Lawrence of Arabia."

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Roads to the Great War

Bagatti’s compilation is not just a vital companion for any student of the Great War in Palestine, but a mustread for any 21st Century politician and diplomat with aspirations for involvement in the Middle East.

Great War IPMS, Great War SIG newsletter – October 2021

This work is a valuable addition to the canon. Tracing the course of the revolt as he wrote it at the time makes fascinating reading and will be a important volume for the general reader and the scholar providing unexpurgated coverage of the despatches with comprehensive notes, bibliography and index.

Martin Willoughby, Chairman of the Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

As one of many authors who has written about T E Lawrence, I was intrigued to learn of the publication of these previously unpublished letters and papers by this remarkable enigmatic man. The story of Lawrence of Arabia is too well known for me to comment on other than to remind readers that it was Lawrence, militarily untrained, who was perhaps the main intermediary between the Arab and British commanders across Arabia. Having personally followed in Lawrence's footsteps across a number of Arabian deserts and visited some of his now famous battlefields, the publication of these papers clarified much that had previously been a mystery to me. This work beautifully describes the severe and harsh condition through which Lawrence lived and fought, as well as outlining his many political thoughts on the progress of the desert war against the cruel Ottoman Empire then supporting Germany.
Reading through this work, to understand Lawrence's achievements, a reader needed a fairly good idea of the layout of the various battle fronts and of Lawrence's routes across vast desert tracts. This was, thankfully, made easier by the maps which preceded the accounts and descriptions of various engagements. As with most accounts of warfare, Lawrence's descriptions, especially of Arab victories over Turkish forces, makes for harrowing reading. Understandably the Arabs had little sympathy for the Turks who had severely suppressed Arabia for some 600 years. Lawrence was the key to supplying the Arabs with modern weaponry and his political skills blended the Arabs forces into a fierce fighting force which gave great support to Allenby's allied advance from Egypt to Turkey itself.
A very interesting and well researched book which answers many questions and clarifies who Lawrence was, indeed a complex individual in a complicated war.

Dr Adrian Greaves, The Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

While T. E. Lawrence's dispatches have been published before, I didn't know they existed until I came across this book on NetGalley. They are presented in chronological order with incredibly useful notes to help the reader's understanding. For those who tend to skip introductions: Don't! Fabrizio Bagatti's introduction really helps with the context and gives a much clearer picture of what is to follow. A perfect presentation of important history.

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

This is an essential read for anybody interested in Lawrence. It shows his role as intermediary and the extent to which he personally engaged with the Arab aspirations. His despatch that described the pre-war situation of the region, detailing the many cultural, tribal, regional, religious and linguistic aspects that both separate and bind the region is a masterpiece. It properly describes a place without the artificial borders constructed by both the Turks and the post war Allied carve up, and much of the information he gives rings very true today. His description of the region around Aleppo and its relationship with Damascus explains much about the recent Syrian civil war. Indeed, it provides the basis to question the consolidation of the region into countries that internally have areas and people who have little in common. It is a great shame that his despatch was not made compulsory reading for those contemplating more recent adventures in the region.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Fabrizio Bagatti

Fabrizio Bagatti is Professor of Literary Translation at the Università degli Studi Internazionali in Rome and a former chief editor at Giunti Publishing Group in Florence. Among his many translations from English to Italian are works by R.L. Stevenson, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Charles Dickens and T.E. Lawrence. He has had a long-standing interest in Lawrence’s life and writings and his recent research into Lawrence’s desert dispatches led to this first complete publication of them.

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