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The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia Part 1
I wasn't sure what to expect from this documentary on T.E. Lawrence, broadcast yesterday on BBC2. The presenter, Rory Stewart, had the background to be able to comment with some authority on Lawrence's effect and legacy in the Middle East, but Lawrence documentaries - and books - tend either towards hagiography or a debunk. This was neither - but consisted mainly of Stewart describing Lawrence's background and, and relating them to the history of the region, and to current situation, via his own and others' experiences. A few clips were used from Lean's film, but mainly the pictures were contemporary photographs (and a small amount of film) from the 1914-18 period, and modern day footage.

The interviews, with scholars, diplomats, soldiers and local people, some of whom actually knew Lawrence, were all fascinating. There was no assumption that the audience was stupid or just dropping in for a few seconds, and concentration (even thought!) was occasionally required.

It isn't so much teaching us about Lawrence (or me about Lawrence, since I've read widely around him ever since I discovered With Lawrence in Arabia in the school library when I was about 14) but about the current situation in the Middle East, its people and how they view us, and how this came about.

I'll certainly be there for part 2.

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I was very impressed with it. Well-filmed, well-researched and intelligent TV.

I hadn't come across Rory Stewart until earlier in the week, when one of the papers ran a feature on him. Apparently he's standing for the Conservatives in one of the Cumbrian seats at the election, and is currently hiking across the constituency to meet people . . .

Stewart's biography is impressive, as was the documentary.

It was a good feature, and he certainly sounds like he's had an interesting and challenging career to date.

By comparison, I stuck the first 15 minutes of that documentary on Christianity afterwards, before the idiot with the hat sent me screaming into the back room!

I've seen bits of The History of Christianity before, and did sit through it last night, because there were odd pieces of information to be gleaned, though there was also a lot of shouting at the TV... His picture of T'ang China did not go down well here, either.

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