Tuesday July 26, 2016

The Shape of Things to Come

British soldier, adventurer and author Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888 - 1935).

British soldier, adventurer and author Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888 - 1935). (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

T.E. Lawrence -- Lawrence of Arabia -- was one of the most brilliant and enigmatic figures of the 20th Century. A groundbreaking archaeologist and cartographer, to say nothing of his legendary skills as a military tactician and leader in the First World War, he was also uncannily prescient about the shape of the world to come. As the great powers carved up the world, he foresaw the geopolitical fault lines that plague us still. **This episode originally aired May 19, 2015.

He was the  illegitimate son of a disgraced Anglo-Irish aristocrat, he was a star student at Oxford, who spent four years as an archaeologist in Syria, before transforming himself into one of the great mythic heroes of World War One --  the leader of a ragtag group of desert Arabs who brought a large Turkish army to its knees and changed the face of the Middle East.

Lawrence was a media star, one of the very first to understand the power of myth and image, and how to control them. The pictures and stories of his exploits in the desert fed the larger story of World War One in Arabia, of the Arabs rising up against the Turks. After the war was over, betrayed and disillusioned, the charismatic war hero retreated into anonymity. In betrayal, Lawrence had seen the future -- of the Middle East, of the 20th and 21st centuries, and of the wars and chaos that plague us still.

Guests in the program:

  • James Barr, author of Setting the Desert on Fire 

  • Anthony Sattin, author of The Young T.E. Lawrence

  • David Murphy, author of The Arab Revolt 1916-1918
  • ‚ÄčScott Anderson, author of Lawrence in Arabia