Saturday, 17 January 2015

Shakespear of Arabia

I was fascinated by a story on the BBC today about this man, Captain William Shakespear (no 'e') - the Lawrence of Arabia before Lawrence - proper looking British army officer, fluent Arabic speaker and photographer.

Captain William Henry Irvine Shakespear

Shakespear was in the Arabian desert before the First World War, living with the Bedouin, hunting with hawks, forging a British alliance with Ibn Saud, head of the House of Saud, against the Ottomans, mapping the desert - and photographing it.

He left a remarkable legacy of pictures.

In 1914, with the outbreak of war, the stakes in the Arabian peninsula were raised. The British were keen to work with Ibn Saud to drive the Ottomans out, but Shakespear was shot dead during a battle between Ibn Saud and an Ottoman backed rival - whilst trying to take photographs - an early casualty of war photography, and perhaps the man who could have inherited the fame that passed to Lawrence of Arabia had he lived.
Read the full story here.

Ibn Saud standing in front of his son and followers near Thaj 1911
Ibn Saud and his followers

Abdulaziz Ibn Saud's army on the march near Habl 1911
Ibn Saud's army on the march



  1. As always, you have managed to inform and entertain with this post. I so enjoy your blog (and, of course, your books).

  2. Rather belatedly - thank you again so much for reading!