27 Articles – T.E. Lawrence

As super fast read. Some good insights not only for politics but also business and military. For the Business side, substitute words like “director”/”VP”/etc for “commander”. Substitute other words for “live with”, “language”, “religion”, “clothing”, “servants” for other suitable words.



Just summary from the various articles. Again, super fast read so summary really not needed.

  • From the Introduction by John Hulsman in the version of the book I read
    • Politics is an organic construction – Anglo-Irish philosopher Edmund Burke
    • Lawrence’s first general principle is that local knowledge and particularism are the keys to nation-building success
    • 2nd general principle is the absolute primacy of politics
    • 3rd general principle is to be acutely aware that as an outsider, you must be above local politics; cannot be seen to be in the business of picking political winners and losers
    • 4th general principle is local political stability was key to peace in the Middle East
  • Article 1: Go easy for the first few weeks. When you have reached the inner circle, you can do as you please
  • Article 2: Learn all you can about families, clans, tribes, friends, enemies, wells, hills and roads. Listen and use indirect inquiry – do not ask questions. Speak their dialect. Avoid getting deep into conversation. Be stiff (formal?) at first.
  • Article 3: In business deal only with the commander. Never give orders. Reserve directions/advice for the commander only. Understand your place is advisory and advice is due to commander alone. Let commander see this is the conception of your duty and the commander is to be the sole executive of your joint plans.
  • Article 4: Win and keep the confidence of the leader. Strengthen the prestige of the commander at your expense. Never refuse or quash schemes the commander may put forward; but ensure they are initially put forward to you and you can modify and make appear the ideas come from the commander. Keep a tight grip on the commander’s ideas and push them forward as possible but secretly.
  • Article 5: Keep in touch with the commander as constantly and unobtrusively as you can. Live with him. Formal visits to give advice are not so good as constant dropping of ideas in casual talk. When stranger commanders come for first time to swear their allegiance to your commander and offer their service, keep clear of the tent.
  • Article 6: Be shy of too close relations with the subordinates of the expedition
  • Article 7: Treat the sub-chiefs of your force quite easily and lightly. Treat the leader with respect and understand that precedence is a serious matter.
  • Article 8: Your ideal position is when you are present and not noticed. Do not be too intimate, too prominent, too earnest. Avoid being identified too long or too often with any particular sub leader.
  • Article 9: Magnify and develop the growing conception of the leaders as the natural aristocracy
  • Article 10: Call your leader by their appropriate title and other people by their ordinary names/without title.
  • Article 11: Wave a leader/commander’s name in front of you like a banner and hide your own mind and person
  • Article 12: Cling tight to your sense of humor. Do not cause a laugh at a leader/commander’s expense except with other leaders of equal footing.
  • Article 13: Never lay hands on an Arab; you degrade yourself and what you’ve done is to build a wall between you and their inner selves. The less you lose your temper the greater your advantage.
  • Article 14: The less apparent your interferences the more your influence.
  • Article 15: Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly.
  • Article 16: Forestall presents to yourself. A well-placed gift is often most effective in winning over a suspicious leader/commander. Never receive a present without given a liberal return. Do not let leaders/commanders ask you for things.
  • Article 17: Wear Arab headcloth when with a tribe.
  • Article 18: Disguise is not advisable. Wear Arab kit when with the tribes, you will acquire their trust and intimacy to a degree impossible in uniform.
  • Article 19: If you wear Arab things, wear the best.
  • Article 20: If you wear Arab things at all, go the whole way. Leave your English friends and customs on the coast. This road should not be chosen without serious thought.
  • Article 21: Religious discussions will be frequent. Say what you like about your own side, and avoid criticism of theirs.
  • Article 22: Do not try to trade on what you know of fighting. Learn the Arab principles of war as thoroughly and as quickly as you can for until you know them your advice will be no good to a commander. Don’t attempt unusual things, unless they appeal to the sporting instinct. A commander/leader (Arab’s call them Sherif) is necessary to command a mixed tribal force.
  • Article 23: The open reason an Arab gives you for action or inaction may be true, but always there will be better reasons left for you to divine. Find these inner reasons before shaping your arguments for one course or another.
  • Article 24: Do not mix various Arab tribes or trained men and tribesmen.
  • Article 25: Avoid too free talk about women
  • Article 26: Be as careful of your servants as yourself.
  • Article 27: The beginning and ending of the secret of handling Arabs is unremitting study of them. Keep always on your guard. Never say unnecessary things. Watch yourself and your companions always. Listen for all that passes. Search out what is going on beneath the surface. Read their characters. Discover their tastes and their weaknesses. Keep everything you find to yourself. Realize your part deeply enough to avoid the little slips that would counteract the painful work of weeks. Success is proportioned to the amount of mental effort you devote to it.

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