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Lawrence of Arabia: excavating a legend


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Easterbrook Hall

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Lawrence of Arabia: excavating a legend

Talk given by Neil Faulkner

On the basis of sensational new evidence from archaeological fieldwork, Neil will contrast the legend of Lawrence of Arabia with the true story of what happened in the famous desert war of 1916 to 1918. Is the legend a myth? Was Lawrence, as some claim, a liar and a charlatan? Or does the legend reflect reality? Was he, in fact, a brilliant military commander and a sincere advocate of the Arab national cause?  ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is an early 20th century instance of celebrity culture. Neil will analyse the invention and re-invention of the legend from 1919 onwards through memoirs, photos, films, paintings, biographies, and documentaries.  The historical context for the legend was the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918. The numerous well-preserved archaeological remains of the conflict, mainly along the line of the former Hijaz Railway, have been the subject of a ten-year programme of field research led by Neil and his close colleague Professor Nick Saunders. Neil will summarise the key findings. Some representative archaeological objects will be on display.  He will also offer a new narrative and analysis of the war based on the archaeological evidence, leading to a new assessment both of Lawrence’s role and achievements, and of the relationship between art and reality in the creation of ‘celebrity’.

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