born in Tremadoc, Caernarvonshire, Wales, the illegitimate son of Thomas Chapman and Sarah Lawrence. Educated at City of Oxford High School for Boys and Jesus College, Oxford University, Lawrence, by his late teens had developed a passion for medieval history. He was heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and the work of William Morris. Lawrence cycled widely as a boy and sailed on his father's yacht when the family lived in France. In 1908, as part of his research for his thesis at Oxford, Lawrence undertook a cycling tour of France, from St. Malo to Marseille and back to Le Havre. The following year he undertook a walking tour of the Crusader castles of Syria, from Beirut into northern Palestine and then north to Aleppo. From 1911 to 1914, Lawrence took part in the British Museum's excavations at Carchemish, a period he regarded as one of the happiest of his life. In spring 1914, Lawrence and his colleague on the Carchemish excavations, C. L. Woolley, were engaged by the Palestine Exploration Fund to carry out an archaeological survey of Palestine's Negev desert.
When World War I broke out in 1914, Lawrence enlisted and, because of his knowledge of the area, was posted in military intelligence in Cairo. Sent as military adviser to the Hashemite army in Transjordan, then in revolt against the Ottoman Turks, he came to play an important role in the war in Palestine but was badly affected by the experiences. His role in the war and in the peace settlement that followed, and the noteriety arising from the publications of Lowell Thomas, prevented Lawrence from returning to archaeology, as Woolley had been able to do. In 1922 Lawrence enlisted in the Royal Air Force (RAF), under the name John Hume Ross, in an attempt to escape from the constant publicity and speculation about his wartime activities. His identity was quickly revealed, and he was discharged. In 1923 he enlisted in the tank corps under the name T. E. Shaw and in 1927 officially changed his name to Shaw. In 1925 he was able to return to the RAF. Late in 1926 he was posted to Karachi, India, and in 1928 to Miranshah on India's northwest frontier, where he remained until his presence was exposed in 1929. He returned to England and from 1929 to 1935 worked as part of an RAF team testing designs for a speedboat to tend seaplanes. Lawrence left the RAF in February 1935, retiring to his cottage at Clouds Hill, Dorset. He died in a motorcycle accident.
- Dann, Uriel. “T. E. Lawrence in Amman, 1921.” Abr-Nahrain 13 (1972): 33–41.
- James, Lawrence. The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. London, 1990.
- Lawrence, Arnold W., ed. T. E. Lawrence, by His Friends, a New Selection of Memoirs. New York, 1937.
- Lawrence, Thomas Edward. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. London, 1926.
- Lawrence, Thomas Edward. Revolt in the Desert. London, 1927.
- Storrs, Ronald. “Lawrence, Thomas Edward.” Dictionary of National Biography 1931–1940, pp. 528–531. London, 1949.
- Wilson, Jeremy. Lawrence of Arabia: the Authorized Biography of T. E. Lawrence. New York, 1992.