Centre for Continuing Education

Lawrence of Arabia Course: The Man and the Legend

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Thomas Edward Lawrence, also known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, was a legend in his own lifetime. Starting his career as a British archaeologist he became a military officer and diplomat during the First World War. He is best known for his role in the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule in 1916-18. His public image was fashioned by the reporting of the Arab Revolt by the American journalist Lowell Thomas and by Lawrence’s autobiographical accounts in ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ and ‘Revolt in the Desert’. A social misfit and an enigma, Lawrence was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in 1935.


At the completion of this history course participants will have:

  1. Learnt about the events leading up to WWI.
  2. Discussed the character of Thomas Edward Lawrence.
  3. Explored the creation of the states of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.


Lawrence before Arabia

Lawrence was born illegitimate in 1888, one of 5 brothers. He grew up in Oxford and was fascinated by archaeology. He studied at Oxford and in 1909 set out alone to explore crusader castles in Syria, walking more than 1500 km. On completing his degree he worked at the site of Carchemish. In 1914 he was co-opted by the British Military to undertake a survey in the Negev Desert, a strategically important area in the coming war.

Lawrence in Arabia

With the outbreak of war in August 1914 Lawrence enlisted as an officer and was posted to the intelligence staff in Cairo because of his extensive knowledge of the region. The Arab Bureau had conceived a campaign of insurgency against the Ottomans by supporting tribal resistance. Lawrence was sent to fight alongside the Emir Faisal, the son of the Sharif Hussein of Mecca. He was involved with the defence of Yanbu and attacks on the Hejaz railway.

Lawrence and the Arab Revolt

In January 1917 Lawrence set off on his first desert raids and in March attacked the railway, hampering the Ottoman war effort. With the assistance of Auda Abu Tayi Lawrence and the Arab irregulars attacked the strategic port of Aqaba in July. He was promoted to major and continued the war effort with Faisal.

Lawrence of Arabia

In January 1918 Lawrence fought in the Battle of Tafileh near the Dead Sea after which he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Lawrence was not present at the fall of Damascus (which was taken by the 10th Australian Light Horse Brigade in October 1918) but he did help establish the provisional government under Faisal in newly liberated Damascus which he envisaged as capital of a new Arab state. This dream was short lived when the French invaded Syria. In this period he worked with war correspondent Lowell Thomas who fashioned a popular view of the man.

Lawrence after Arabia

After the war Lawrence worked for the Foreign Office attending the Peace Conference in Paris. He served as advisor to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office. In August 1922, attempting to avoid publicity, he enrolled as T. E. Shaw in the Royal Tank Corps but was later sent to a remote base in British India where he remained till 1928. He died at the age of 46 in a motorcycle accident and received an elaborate funeral.

Intended Audience

This history course is suitable for personal interest adult learners, university students and active retirees who have an interest in history and Lawrence of Arabia.

Delivery Style

This history course in Sydney will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussions will be encouraged.

Recommended Reading

Scott Anderson, Lawrence in Arabia, London, 2013


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Certificate of completion