In 1918, at the end of the First World War, Thomas Edward Lawrence was unknown to the vast majority of the British population. Throughout the 1920s, however, his wartime activities were popularised and he became a military celebrity that ranked alongside Horatio Nelson. Lawrence had been British intelligence in Egypt’s liaison with the Arab rebels of the Hejaz and had waged a guerrilla war against the Ottoman Empire. He was one of the few Arabic speakers in the British Army and had worked before the war as an archeologist in Syria. He was a complex and contradictory figure, at once shy and reluctant to appear in the public eye, but also an egotistical self promoter who did much to build his own myth. His sexual ambiguity and his ability to discard his ‘Britishness’ during the revolt, living with the Arabs and dressing like an Arabian prince (which he did briefly, an aspect of the film of Lawrence of Arabia which is much exaggerated), have made him a figure of fascination for a century. British audiences f0und much to admire in Lawrence, considering the fact that the rest on the war fought on the western front was interpreted in an almost exclusively negative light.
Watch the video below for the full story on the creation of Lawrence’s legend: