The Imperial Legacies of T. E. Lawrence: A Study in Political and Organizational Hybridity

  •  Naser Khdour    
  •  Martin Harris    
  •  David Weir    


T.E. Lawrence is a celebrated figure in military history and a key reference point for the idea that small and highly mobile armed units can decisively undermine the strategic capacities of conventional armies and empires. Whilst Lawrence played an important role in supporting Arab self-determination, his legacy has been the subject of some controversy in the Arab world. We show the ‘hybridised’ nature of this legacy in the fields of military intelligence and irregular warfare. Lawrence borrowed the techniques of mobile warfare from local Arab sources during the First World War. This ‘borrowing’ then became the basis of further variations on the theme of mobility and autonomy as the lessons of the Arab revolt were applied to the clandestine operations of organizations such as the SAS and the SOE during the Second World War. The paper explores the processes by which these borrowings occurred; highlighting the ways in which Lawrence’s legacy resonates with the covert operations of today’s intelligence organizations and with contemporary interest in ‘networked’ forms in the aftermath of 9/11.

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