Great in-depth look at what transpired in the early 20th century during WWI when the Allied Powers were busy carving up the spoils of a war they had not yet won, the beginnings of modern day chaos in the Middle East, greed for oil, Zionist blinders, etc. T.E. Lawrence (not his real name, but that of his pseudonym due to his father running off with his mistress) is an avid archeology student at Oxford, biking around northwest France then walking through Syria as a lad. With the luck of the times, he clamps himself to the war machinery in Arabia during the early years of WWI and becomes an indispensable conduit to one of the local emirs/princes, Faisal ibn Hussein. TEL gets caught up in the Arab Revolt, giving up British secrets to further the cause he really believes in. Other characters abound: William Yale, a Standard Oil man fallen from aristocracy grace, the German spy Curt Prufer, Aaron Aaronson an early Zionist voice. At the end of WWI, the Paris conglomerate destroyed much of what TEL was working for and set the stage for the chaos that continues.
From the Epilogue:
By the 1960s, with the era of European imperialism drawing to its unceremonious close, the Middle East resembled the shambles the colonial powers were leaving behind in other parts of the globe, but with one crucial difference: because of oil, the region had now become the most strategically vital corner on earth, and the West couldn’t walk way from the mess it had helped to create there even if it had to. What has transpired there over the past half century is, of course, familiar to all: four wars between the Arabs and Israelis; a ten-year civil war in Lebanon and a twenty-year one in Yemen; the slaughter of ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq; four decades of state-sponsored terrorism; convulsions of religious extremism; four major American military interventions and a host of smaller ones; and for the Arab people, until very recently, a virtually unbroken string of cruel and/or kleptocratic dictatorships stretching from Tunisia to Iraq that left the great majority impoverished and disenfranchised.