Thomas Edward Lawrence, born in 1888, grew up in Oxford, England, where he attended the High School and Jesus College. As a student, he was fascinated by medieval military architecture and in 1909 he visited France.
He pedaled his bicycle through the French countryside and stopped to sketch castles. He then went to Syria and Palestine (modern-day Israel) and compared the French castles to those left behind by the Christian crusaders. His thesis on the subject won him great acclaim, but his exposure to the Middle East would change his life.
While traveling to Syria, he was attacked by a mob and beaten. An Arab family took in the injured Lawrence and nursed him back to health. Lawrence grew to admire the Arabs. In 1911, he joined an archaeological expedition in the Mesopotamian region.
World War I broke out in 1914, pitting Germany, Austria, and Turkey’ against England, France, and Russia. Lawrence returned to the Middle East and helped map the Sinai peninsula for the British. In late 1914, Lawrence was made an intelligence officer in the Middle East and he urged that the British support Arab revolts in Arabia against the Turkish empire.
Lawrence joined the Arab guerrilla operations and organized them to attack the Turkish army. His exploits became legend and newspaper reporters referred to him as “Lawrence of Aiabia.” Lawrence recounted his adventures in a book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, published in 1927.