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Papers of T.E. Lawrence and A.W. Lawrence


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The active role A.W. Lawrence played after T.E. Lawrence's death is reflected in the division of the collection into two series: the correspondence and papers of T.E. Lawrence with some related papers, c.1894-1970 and the correspondence and papers of A.W. Lawrence, relating to T.E. Lawrence, 1917-85. It is important to note that much of T.E. Lawrence's correspondence in this collection is not original but copies.

The general correspondence material includes a long series of typescript and handwritten transcripts of Lawrence letters, which were prepared and bound by the Lawrence Trustees as part of a project to collect and record Lawrence letters. The originals were lent by their owners, transcribed either by A.W. Lawrence, M.R. Lawrence or the author David Garnett, and the original letter or letters returned to the owner. The resultant typescripts were arranged alphabetically and bound together (see MSS. Eng. d. 3327-41). Occasionally, the original letter may also survive, in MS. Eng. c. 6738, as well as the copy in the typescript volumes.

The family correspondence material is arranged chronologically. Lawrence was a particularly enthusiastic correspondent with his family, writing very descriptive letters of his activities and surroundings and less frequently about personal matters. Many extracts from these letters have been published, in The Home Letters of T.E. Lawrence and his Brothers (Oxford, 1954) and The Letters of T.E. Lawrence selected and edited by Malcolm Brown (London, 1988).

There follows a section of Lawrence's personal papers, which mainly consist of material relating to his time spent in the RAF. The RAF papers have been listed first, and include three bound volumes of transcripts of Air Ministry correspondence with and about T.E. Lawrence, created by the Trustees after Lawrence's death. The RAF papers and the remainder of the miscellaneous personal papers are arranged chronologically.

Lawrence's literary papers and manuscripts are arranged chronologically according to the order in which he wrote them. These papers cover most of the major works completed by Lawrence and provide examples of a few of the essays and contributions he made to various magazines and journals. (For a comprehensive list of the works of T.E. Lawrence see Lawrence of Arabia, the authorized biography of T.E. Lawrence by Jeremy Wilson (London, 1989), pp.966-75.)

The main part of the papers relating to the estate of T.E. Lawrence consist of the administration papers of the executors of Lawrence's will, and is by and large arranged chronologically. They also include documents relating to Clouds Hill both in Lawrence's lifetime and after his death.

The remainder of T.E. Lawrence's papers consist of an extensive photographic collection, covering most periods of Lawrence's life, but mainly the First World War. It is believed that Lawrence himself took a large quantity of these pictures, and after the War was keen to acquire the prints of others in an attempt to chart the Arab revolt. Many of the pictures remain unidentified and undated.

The rest of the collection consists of the papers of A.W. Lawrence and include his own correspondence with those interested in T.E. Lawrence and an assortment of material he collected about him. They include documents concerning the impostor and forger E.H.T. Robinson, who claimed to have served with Lawrence during the First World War (see MS. Eng. c. 6753, fols. 20-97). Within this section are papers relating to biographies of T.E. Lawrence, including some particularly interesting replies to the letters of Robert Graves asking for information on Lawrence in 1927. There are also press cuttings and other printed material, which reflect to some extent the large audience reached by the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia.


  • Creation: c.1894-1985


6.6 Linear metres (62 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

The papers were given to the Bodleian on condition that until 1970 they could be consulted only with the written permission of the Lawrence Trustees (who acted for the family). This restriction was later extended to 1 January 2000. From that date the Bodleian administers requests for access to and copies of the papers.

While the restrictions on use of the papers in the Bodleian remained in force, a simple box list of the collection was used to aid those readers who had received permission from the Trustees to look at the collection. The ending of the restrictions on access has prompted the proper sorting and rearranging of the collection, resulting in new shelfmarks. A conspectus of old and new shelfmarks is available in the Library to help those who may have old document references.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests to publish or quote from the papers must be addressed in writing to the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark, e.g. MS. Eng. d. 3327.]

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. b. 2095-2096, c. 6737-6758, c. 6767, d. 3327-3349, e. 3299-3301; Photogr. b. 27, c. 122-126, d. 27-28; Film 2058

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15200


Papers of T.E. Lawrence, with some related material c.1894-1970, and the correspondence and papers of A.W. Lawrence relating to his brother T.E. Lawrence, 1917-85

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935), known to his family as 'Ned', was born at Tremadoc, North Wales, the second of five sons of Sir Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman and Sarah Junner. He was educated at Oxford High School and Jesus College Oxford, from which he graduated in 1910 with a 1st Class Honours degree in Modern History. After graduation, Lawrence pursued his earlier enthusiasm for archaeology by participating in the British Museum Expedition excavating the Hittite city of Carchemish. At various times between 1911 and 1914, Lawrence worked under the direction of both D.G. Hogarth and Sir Leonard Woolley. The outbreak of the First World War saw Lawrence in London where initially he spent time working as a civilian in the Geographical Section of the War Office. He was commissioned in October 1914 and posted to Cairo to join the Intelligence Office where he remained for two years. In October 1916, Lawrence accompanied Sir Ronald Storrs to Jidda where he met one of the Arab leaders, Sherif Feisal (who later became King Feisal I of Iraq). This meeting began Lawrence's direct involvement with the Arab Revolt and his close relationship with Feisal and the Arab people.

After the War the American journalist Lowell Thomas delivered a series of lectures in London entitled 'With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia'. He showed pictures of Lawrence in Arab dress and described some of his wartime experiences. The lectures proved immensely popular and earned Lawrence the title 'Lawrence of Arabia'. Lawrence was involved in politics immediately after the war, petitioning for the Arab cause in the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Nevertheless, he wanted to leave the limelight and sought obscurity; he resigned as adviser to the Colonial Office under Winston Churchill, in 1922. One of the first things Lawrence did after his resignation was write his personal account of the Arab revolt. Two earlier drafts were destroyed or lost before a final limited edition appeared as Seven Pillars of Wisdom in 1922.

In 1922, with the agreement of the Air Ministry, Lawrence joined the RAF under the assumed name of John Hume Ross. He entered at the lowest rank of aircraftsman and was keen nobody should discover his true identity. When the British press did find out that Lawrence had joined the RAF, the resulting publicity was unwelcome to the service and to avoid further embarrassment Lawrence was discharged. Anxious to stay within the services he spent a brief period in the Tank Corps between 1923-5, before persuading the authorities to allow him to return once more to the RAF, where he remained until his retirement in February 1935. Upon his retirement, T.E. Lawrence spent only a few weeks in his cottage at Clouds Hill before being fatally injured in a motorcycle accident on 13 May; he died on 19 May 1935.

Lawrence was survived by his mother, elder brother Montagu Robert Lawrence ('Bob') and his youngest brother Arnold Walter Lawrence ('Arnie'). A.W. Lawrence and the solicitor John Snow, were the executors of Lawrence's will (see MSS. Eng. b. 2095-6, c. 6746-9). After his brother's death, A.W. Lawrence spent a considerable part of his life promoting Lawrence's memory, collecting papers about him, and condemning what he considered any misrepresentation of his character in the press. At the same time he pursued his own career as a professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University and at the University College of Ghana.

Lawrence used a number of different names or aliases throughout his lifetime but is referred to as Lawrence in this catalogue.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

T.E. Lawrence's papers were given to the Bodleian Library by the Lawrence family over a period of 45 years, beginning with a gift of family letters in 1939, and continuing to arrive intermittently throughout the decades to 1985. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust gave a bundle of press cuttings to add to the collection in 2000 (see MS. Eng. c. 6767).

Related Materials

Other Lawrence papers in the Bodleian include the holograph draft of the third version of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (MS. Eng. hist. d. 112), to be consulted on the microfilm available in the Special Collections Reading Room; the final draft of The Mint (MS. Eng. hist. c. 607); and a commonplace book, Minorities (MS. Eng. misc. d. 788). There are groups of letters from Lawrence to A.E. Chambers, Geoffrey Dawson, E.T. Leeds (Dep. c. 760, fols. 1-160) and transcripts of letters to his mother (MSS. Eng. lett. c. 146-7). Material concerning him is included in the papers of Lionel Curtis (MSS. Curtis 96, fols. 121-68; 97) and of Geoffrey Dawson.

Further individual letters are to be found scattered through the Library's holdings; details are available in the Accessions Index, on cards, in Duke Humfrey's Library. In addition, Jesus College, Oxford holds Lawrence's 1910 thesis; requests to consult it must be made in writing to the Fellow Archivist at Jesus College.

Catalogue of the papers of T.E. Lawrence, c. 1894-1985 with papers of A.W. Lawrence relating to T.E. Lawrence, 1917-1985
Anna Dunn
December 2000
Language of description
Script of description
The cataloguing of this collection was made possible by generous funding from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom