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The Arab Revolt 1916-18: Lawrence Sets Arabia Ablaze (Campaign) [Paperback]

David Murphy , Howard Gerrard
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Nov 2008 Campaign (Book 202)
The Arab Revolt of 1916-18 was one of the most dramatic events of World War I. It resulted in the birth of the modern Middle East and also created one of the most enduring myths of the war: the story of Lawrence of Arabia. This book examines the revolt, describing and analyzing the background and events of the uprising. Breaking the process into several broad phases, the author examines the initial capture of coastal towns like Jeddah, followed by the raids on the Hijaz Railway, the seizure of Aqaba and the northward push of the Arab Army at Gaza, Jerusalem, Megiddo and Damascas. Finally, this book describes how a local Arab rebellion grew to form a major part of Allied operations in the Middle East, as Arab tribesman who were merely troublesome raiders developed into a force which could oppose brigade-sized Turkish columns by 1918.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey; First Edition, First Printing edition (10 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184603339X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846033391
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 18 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 109,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Murphy provides an excellent narrative of how the British and French supplanted the Ottoman Turks as the rulers of the Middle East (and how this caused a large rift between the Arabs and the British and French once the Arabs realized what was going on). He also shows how some the most influential Arab players in the Middle East came to be so important - many were involved in the Arab Revolt - families such as the Husseins (Syria) and the Sauds (this is provided in a section entitled "Legacy of the Arab Revolt" which is divided into parts about Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and the Hejaz (mainly Saudi Arabia). Finally, Murphy discusses the fate of the most famous man from the Revolt - Lawrence of Arabia - it is quite a sad story. This book is an excellent resource for any person interested in the Arab Revolt in World War I." -Jeff Grim, "www.collectedmiscellany.com"

About the Author

Dr David Murphy was born in Dublin in 1968 and is a graduate of both University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. He is a contributor to the "Dictionary of Irish Biography," and has published two books and numerous articles. His previous publication for Osprey Publishing was "Elite 147 Irish Regiments in the World Wars." The author lives in Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced review of the Revolt 20 Feb 2009
By Digger
Format:Paperback
This is an excellent addtion to the literature on the Arab Revolt and thankfully does not concentrate on the 'Lawrence of Arabia' legend, that dominates most other histories of the subject.
This book reflects the growing interest in the Ottoman army's tactics and dispositions, as well as the growing evidence and realisation that the Turks proved just as tough and resourceful opponents on this front as on the others such as Gallipoli and Mesopotamia. This provides a useful antidote to the usual narratives that normally relegate them to nothing more than comedy stooges for Lawrence's activities. One day we may get an english language translation of the Turkish official history for this campaign which would unlock even more detail.
The inclusion of preliminary battlefield archaeology work currently being done in southern Jordan is particularly welcome and illustrates just how important these studies are.
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Format:Paperback
I expected this to be all Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence. I was nicely surprised. An excellent short account of an important episode in 20th century ME history. It gives due mention to Arab leaders and also other British and French officers. A good selection of photos and maps. I have done some research on this subject and was amazed at the photographs - many of these I had never seen before. Successfully avoids falling into the trap of simply retelling the Lawrence story again.

As to some possible, I think it was necessary to include that section on the "Lawrence Myth". Having shown us the wider picture, I think it was wise of Murphy to actually explain how Lawrence came to prominence and why he eventually dwarfed all the others who took part in this campaign. Also, I don't think he is necessarily taking Hashemite claims at face value. Are there not implicit criticisms of Hussein and his sons in the final section on the aftermath of the revolt? Is Murphy not essentially saying that they kept their armies in the locality of the "main chance" (Mecca and Medina) and thus necessitated the wider involvement of ICC and Indian troops in the Jordan, Palestine theatre?

I would have liked some further detail on some aspects of this - such as the French involvement. But given the strictures of this format, this book covers a lot of ground in just 90+ pages and managed to do-in a few sacred cows on the way. Considering it has taken some historians hundreds of pages to cover this subject, I think Murphy has done a good job of distilling this down into a short readable form. The mention of the current excavations is interesting and I see from the GARP website, they are discovering more and more out there. I would recommend this. An excellent introduction to a complex subject and a story that stills seems to have some distance to run.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars arab revolt reviewed 24 Jan 2010
Format:Paperback
An excellent starter book which puts Lawrence in historical perspective, it avoids romantism and gives mention to the other British and French officers involved.
A brief resume of the resulting political settlement in the former ottoman empire is given. This does not seek to explain in detail Lawrence's subsequent struggles against the betrayal of arab expectations, which still underscore Arab distrust of the West to this day. Nor his subsequent actions ( joining the army then the RAF as an enlisted man ) To be fair that is outside the remit of this book.
Maps and diagrams are easily understood, photographs well chosen, recomended
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well balanced view of the revolt 26 Feb 2009
By Graves - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I will admit that I opened David Murphy's work on the Arab revolt half expecting it to be an anthem to romanticism, exploding the importance of the revolt and the capabilities of the `brave' Arab and TE Lawrence of Arabia out of all proportion to their actual importance in the sphere of World War 1. I am very pleased to say I was very wrong.

Murphy writes knowing that quite probably most of his readers only know of the Arab revolt from the film "Lawrence of Arabia" and asides from readings about the main British Army. He sets out to lay down a good explanation of the fact as well as the myth.

To look at the work is one of Osprey's better books. The illustrations are a nice mix of photographs that manage to avoid becoming too similar and the book also, thankfully, limits new artwork that often seems to detract from other Osprey books and take up too much of the too limited space.

Early on Murphy admits that a lack of Turkish sources limited his information from the Turkish side but he still strives to point out the strong points and limitations of both sides with in the frame work of the book. He lists both sides' plans and how reality and planning intersect and how they diverge. He covers the toughness of the Turks and their nightmarish supply system. He compares that to the fierceness of the Arab tribesman and the chronic unreliability brought on by the indiscipline AND their cultural mores.

He also notes that acknowledging that the vast numbers of people, tribes and groups that were involved is beyond the limited scope of the Osprey series and so lets the reader know that there is indeed much more for the curious to look for. To the people of the region this was the great event in their history, but compared with the struggles in Europe, it was a side show. Without belittling or over inflating the event, Murphy keeps it in proprotion.

For many people who thought the Arab revolt was Lawrence of Arabia and a bunch of near bandits on Camels this book is an education. Murphy lists and explains the contributions of the Europeans who trained and fought with the Arab armies, the invaluable contributions of European men and material and the actions of the regular Arab army. Men, who trained, drilled and marched to war as surely as the Tommy's, Pilou and Dough Boys of Western Europe.

Indeed if I am going to mention things I did not like about the book it will seem I am picking at straws but two things did stand out. A little too often Murphy comments on something "will be discussed later." When I was in middle school this would have been marked off on an essay with the words, `don't tell me about it, just do it.' I myself would add this years later when grading college papers and the Editors of Osprey should have responded the same way.

The other part I thought needless were several pictures from the Peter O'Toole film "Lawrence of Arabia." The book has many excellent and authentic photos of the people and places involved with out needing to show a picture of Alec Guinness in costume as Prince Feisal, there are several pictures of the real prince in the book, or an entire page, in color, showing a poster for the Peter O'Toole movie. Having gone to such great lengths to explore the many almost forgotten real characters that were a part of the Arab revolt, this gush to Hollywood almost seems to cheapen the work.

Ultimately though, this is an excellent work. Not just for people with an interest in the first World War but also in actors and events that led to the creation of the modern Arab world. Murphy writes knowing it is not the final word on the topic but that he has filled in a void in many people's knowledge and for people interested in studying further he has set down a good ground work.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cuts Lawrence Down to Size 25 Jan 2009
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
While many readers are familiar with the basic outline of the British-supported Arab Revolt against the Turks in 1916-1918 thanks to David Lean's award-winning film, Lawrence of Arabia, few are aware of the actual military details of the campaign. In Osprey's Campaign No. 202, The Arab Revolt 1916-18, author David Murphy sets out to provide a detailed military description of the campaign, without getting sidetracked by the 300 pound gorilla in the room - T. E. Lawrence. As Murphy notes, Lawrence did play an important role in the campaign, but so did other British and French soldiers. Furthermore, the Arab Revolt included both irregular forces like the Bedouin cavalry but also the Arab regular army, which had infantry and artillery. Indeed, one of the best aspects of this well written volume is to cut Lawrence down to his proper historical size and to highlight the role of individuals and formations which have been excluded from the normal `Seven Pillars of Wisdom' version of this campaign. This volume belongs in any serious collection on the First World War.

The introductory sections sketch out the origins of the Arab Revolt, the opposing commanders, opposing forces and opposing plans. Although the author consulted no Turkish sources, it is gratifying to see him make some effort to explain the Turkish position in Arabia. Too often, the Turks are just laughed off, but this author makes an effort to explain their forces and intentions. A two-page order of battle is provided.

The campaign narrative itself is solid and details the outbreak of the revolt, the arrival of British and French military assistance, Turkish countermoves and the gradual spread of the campaign northward from the Hejaz toward Palestine and Syria. Political issues, such as the Sykes-Picot agreement and its implications for the Allied relationship with the Arab revolt are also addressed. Along the way, the author adds in the Arab regular army, French artillerymen, British aviators, Ghurka (!) camel troops and notes that this was one of the most cosmopolitan campaigns of the war. While the author does touch on the connection between Allenby's advance on Damascus, readers would be advised to use this volume in conjunction with the earlier volume on the Meggido campaign in order to get the full picture.

This volume is a bit light on maps compared to other Osprey campaign titles, with only four 2-D maps (strategic situation in the Hejaz, June 1916; Turkish countermoves on Yanbu, December 1916; the Arab capture of Aqaba, July 1917; Arab advance on Damascus and Aleppo, September-October 1918) and two 3-D maps (the Battle of Tafila, January 1918; the Arab regular army attack on Ma'an, April 1918). The battle scenes by Peter Dennis (Attacks on the Hejaz Railway, February 1917; the fall of Aqaba; the attack on Mudawwarah station, August 1918) are very good, but all from the Allied/Arab perspective and only one shows Turks. Readers should also note that Lawrence appears in only the Aqaba battle scene. Overall, a good volume.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful short account of the Arab Revolt 15 Jun 2011
By Benjamin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Like the reader below, I expected this to be all Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence. I was nicely surprised. An excellent short account of an important episode in 20th century ME history. It gives due mention to Arab leaders and also other British and French officers. A good selection of photos and maps. I have done some research on this subject and was amazed at the photographs - many of these I had never seen before. Successfully avoids falling into the trap of simply retelling the Lawrence story again.

As to some of the criticisms below, I think it was necessary to include that section on the "Lawrence Myth". Having shown us the wider picture, I think it was wise of Murphy to actually explain how Lawrence came to prominence and why he eventually dwarfed all the others who took part in this campaign. Also, I don't think he is necessarily taking Hashemite claims at face value. Are there not implicit criticisms of Hussein and his sons in the final section on the aftermath of the revolt? Is Murphy not essentially saying that they kept their armies in the locality of the "main chance" (Mecca and Medina) and thus necessitated the wider involvement of ICC and Indian troops in the Jordan, Palestine theatre?

I would have liked some further detail on some aspects of this - such as the French involvement. But given the strictures of this format, this book covers a lot of ground in just 90+ pages and managed to do-in a few sacred cows on the way. Considering it has taken some historians hundreds of pages to cover this subject, I think Murphy has done a good job of distilling this down into a short readable form. The mention of the current excavations is interesting and I see from the GARP website, they are discovering more and more out there. I would recommend this. An excellent introduction to a complex subject and a story that stills seems to have some distance to run.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly illustrated short account of Middle Eastern campaign in First World War 6 Mar 2009
By Michael L. Raymond - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's only recently that I've discovered the amazing and seemingly endless series of military books by Osprey Publishing of the United Kingdom. I happened upon the title in question by accident while looking up a different book.
I hadn't seen anything new on this subject for a while, and was delighted to find a totally new Lawrence related title. Author David Murphy and illustrator Peter Dennis have produced a worthy addition to the vast amount of literature on the subject.
I wish to respond to a criticism by a previous reader, who felt that it was unnecessary to include a poster for the David Lean movie Lawrence of Arabia, and a photo of actor Alec Guinness in the role of Prince Faisal.These were included in a section entitled " The Lawrence Legend", along with the bust of Lawrence by Eric Kennington, and the portrait by James McBey, both classic representations of T.E.Lawrence. The Guinness photo shows the continuity of popular re-creations of Lawrence, describing how Guinness had played Lawrence on stage before taking the role of Faisal in the Lean film. The caption for the movie poster correctly states that the movie is responsible for bringing Lawrence back into public awareness, and is still the primary vehicle for introducing Lawrence to people, who might then go on to read about him. This was certainly true in my case.
This book is well worth the time for the knowledgeable reader and the first timer to the subject.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most revealing 8 Jun 2011
By Brown, A.S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Like all Osprey books, this serves as a short and succinct summary of the subject. As it subtitle suggests, the big issue that Murphy struggles with is that most magnetic and enigmatic of personalities', Colonel T.E. Lawrence. It is very revealing reading this book to see just how many of the Lawrence legends are exposed and set aside. For an example, most accounts have Lawrence operating most or less single-handily in the Hejaz, when in fact there were numerous British and French officers serving in the Hejaz. Lawrence did not originate the attacks on the Hejaz railroad, which started a good two months before he led his first attack in March 1917. The Hashemite forces were not just bands of Bedouin guerrillas, but also included the Arab Regular Army of former Ottoman POWs who wore British-style uniforms and fought in conventional battles. Moreover, the somewhat misnamed Great Arab Revolt received crucial assistance from British ground, air and above all naval forces, and was not just a case of plucky Arab guerrillas bringing down the mighty Ottoman Empire. It is not that Murphy is any way hostile towards Lawrence, whom he portrays as an extraordinary, albeit a deeply troubled leader, but rather he cuts away the accumulated encomium of the Lawrence myth to reveal the true story.

Leaving aside the overshadowing personality of Lawrence, Murphy does a fine job of summarizing the Arab revolt in less than 100 pages. Perhaps because this is not a biography, even though Lawrence gets his due, Murphy takes a wider view of the campaign, and does not reduce the story of the Hejaz revolt down to the story of Lawrence in Arabia. Unlike most accounts of the Arab Revolt, Murphy makes an effort to understand the Ottoman side, which tends to get overlooked, with Hashemite forces struggling against more or less any anonymous Turkish forces. Because perhaps he is a British historian, there is much focus on the British role in aiding and assisting the revolt. The other big issues about the campaign in Arabia are to what extent was Allied aid crucial, and did the efforts of the Arab irregulars play a decisive role in the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire? About the latter, Murphy makes a strong case that by tying down, harassing, and threatening the flanks of the Ottomans that the Revolt did play a key role in aiding Allenby. About the former, through Murphy does not say this explicitly, and by no means demeans the contributions of the Hashemite emirs Abdullah and Feisal, and the other Arab leaders, but one gets the sense that he favours the view that Allied assistance was crucial.

Turning to the weaknesses, there is a tendency which most accounts of the Revolt succumb to, of taking the Hashemite claim to be the leaders of all the Arabs at face value. This is simply not true. The Sharif of Mecca, Hussein ibn Ali, is portrayed as an Arab nationalist, when in fact he was nothing of the sort. The Sharif Hussein, who seems to been a particularly treacherous, scheming character spent most of his life living in Constantinople, and spoke notably better Turkish than he did Arabic. Hussein had no interest in Arab nationalism, and everything he did was meant to aggrandise his own power. All these claims of Hussein being the "King of the Arabs" was just empire-building on his part. Nor does he mention that Hussein and his sons were frequently in contact with the Turks as part of the effort to secure the largest clunk of the patrimony of the Middle East for themselves. The Hashemites as part of their empire-building claimed to be the leaders of the entire Arab world, but there is nothing either at the time or since to support these assertions. Murphy mentions this in passing that much of the Ottoman Army was Arab, but he does not bring out the real point that more Arabs fought for the Turks than against them in the First World War. However, these are all political questions, and this book is first and foremost a military history. As a military history, it is excellent, less so as a political history.
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