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.