Lawrence of Arabia and the Making of the Modern Middle East

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HIST E-1896

Lawrence of Arabia and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Thursdays, 5:30-7:30

Sever 103

Charles Stang

Associate Professor of Early Christian Thought

Harvard Divinity School

CSWR 208 (42 Francis Ave)

This course introduces students to the life, literature, and legacy of T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935), better known as Lawrence of Arabia. We focus on his role in the so-called Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule during the First World War, his monumental memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom, British and French efforts to carve the modern Middle East into nation states under respective spheres of influence, the tortured life of Lawrence after the war, and his ambivalent legacy in literature and film.
Required Books
T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph [SPW]

David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and Creation of the Modern Middle East [PEAP]

Edward Said, Orientalism [not available at the Harvard Coop, but widely available elsewhere]
All other readings [*] will be made available as PDFs. In addition to readings, we will be watching three films:
Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for the Arab World (2003)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1991)
A very helpful reference website:

  1. Attendance, preparation for and participation in class discussion. I expect all students to come to class having read the required texts closely and prepared to discuss them.

  2. Three (written) assignments: there will be a variety of options for written assignments, which can be tailored to students’ particular schedules (e.g. variable due dates), interests, and strengths. Creative projects are welcome.

    1. First assignment due 10/16 (2-3 pg. paper)

    2. Second assignment due 11/20 (4-5 pg. paper)

    3. Final assignment due 12/18 (15+ pg. paper)

Course schedule
9/4 – Introduction
Documentary: Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for the Arab World
SPW Introduction (23-63)

PEAP Part I (7-76)

*Charles M. Stang, “The Many Ways of T.E. Lawrence” [PDF]
SPW Book I (64-112)

PEAP Part II (79-118)

SPW Book II (113-164)

PEAP Part III (119-206)

SPW Book III (165-226)

PEAP Part IV and V (207-252)

SPW Book IV (227-312)

PEAP Part VI (253-304)

10/16 First assignment due
SPW Book V (313-381)

PEAP Part VII (305-350)

SPW Book VI (382-453)

PEAP Part VIII (351-382)

SPW Book VII (454-505)

PEAP Part IX (383-414)

SPW Book VIII (506-535)

PEAP Part X (415-464)

SPW Book IX (536-579)

PEAP Part XI (465-492)

11/20 Second assignment due
Film: A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia
*André Malraux, “Lawrence and the Demon of the Absolute” [PDF]
11/27 – Thanksgiving
*Terence Rattigan, Ross [PDF]

Read online:

SPW Book X & Epilogue (580-661)

PEAP Part XII & Afterward (493-576)

Film: Lawrence of Arabia, Part I
Edward W. Said, Orientalism, pp. 1-30, 201-328 (Introduction & Chapter 3, “Orientalism Now”)
12/18 Final assignment due
Film: Lawrence of Arabia, Part II
*Charles M. Stang, “‘Does Not Care’: Lawrence, Herodotus, and Nietzsche on History” [PDF]

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