T.E. Lawrence and the Round Table

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 11 18:53:02 MST 2003

 From "The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia" by Phillip Knightley and
Colin Simpson:

What did Hogarth have in mind for Lawrence ? He cannot, at this early stage
have foreseen the role both he and Lawrence would play in the Arab Revolt.
But, like other academics at Oxford, he had given a lot of consideration to
the future of the Empire and had been influenced by the ideas of Lord
Milner and his 'kindergarten', best expressed by Lionel Curtis and his
strange Round Table, a periodical and also a study group 'which have played
a role in British imperial affairs that has never yet been properly
analysed or described'. (One of the reasons for this has been a certain
secrecy which the group maintained ever since its founders agreed that 'as
little as possible should be said about its existence or the objects of its
activities ... When asked, men should explain that a number of individuals
were making a study of imperial relations and conducting a magazine to
communicate ideas and information'.)

Curtis, who later became a close friend of Lawrence's, was a racist and a
Francophobe; he once wrote 'some Brahmins are as white as Frenchmen'. He
was also a fanatical supporter of the English-speaking countries as the
main civilizing influence in an otherwise irredeemable world. He told
Arnold Toynbee in 1925 that if Christ were to return to earth he would find
that his precepts were being best practised in the British Commonwealth.
The Round Table's main aims, taken from Milner's teachings as described in
the Round Table, were Federation (union of all the white people in the
Empire) and Imperialism ('The work of British imperialists during my
lifetime has been to hold the fort ... to get over the dangerous interval
during which imperialism, which for long appealed only to the far-sighted
few, should become the accepted faith of the whole nation ... in another
twenty years it is reasonable to hope that all Britons, alike in Motherland
or overseas, will be imperialists').

John Buchan, who became a friend of Lawrence's, believed in the Round Table
and in a fictional essay called 'Lodge in the Wilderness', outlined the
ideas for which it stood. This summary is from Elizabeth Monroe:

'It describes a group of imaginary people born within the political and
social pale (some of the prototypes are obvious), who are hand-picked by a
hero modelled on Rhodes for a house-party on an escarpment in East Africa.
They represent the whole range of empire builderspoliticians, pro-consuls,
traders, men who can pass as natives or stay impis [Zulu armies] with a
word. They spend the day shooting lions and visiting chieftains, but as
soon as night falls settle to the real business of their meeting, which is
to decide how to fire the empire with their spirit. "The average man [says
one of them], may be described as a confused imperialist. He wants to make
the most of the heritage bequeathed to him; his imagination fires at its
possibilities; but he is still very ignorant and shy, and he has no idea
how to set about the work. The first of imperial duties is to instruct him".'

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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