Beginning his life-long affair with the Middle East, T.E. Lawrence—Lawrence of Arabia—made his first journey to the region, a four-month walking tour of Syria studying the Crusaders' castles, while still a student at Oxford. He later returned to the area as an archeologist and at the outbreak of World War I was attached to British army intelligence in Egypt. In 1916 he set out on his greatest adventure. With no backing, Lawrence joined Arab forces facing almost insurmountable odds in a rebellion against Turkish domination. His brilliance as a desert war strategist made him a hero among the Arabs, a legendary figure throughout the world, and earned him the moniker Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence, though, had a near-pathological dislike of publicity and, at the writing of this book, had begun a life of self-imposed obscurity as T.E. Shaw, an anonymous soldier in the RAF.
First published in 1927, Robert Graves's biography remains a unique study of T.E. Lawrence. As a close friend (Lawrence had earlier saved the aspiring poet from bankruptcy), Graves was the only biographer to write with Lawrence's permission and cooperation and did so with understanding and insight that enabled him to separate the man from the myth.