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British copyright law and T. E. Lawrence's writings

On 1 January 1996, British copyright in T. E. Lawrence's writings was extended (in some instances revived) because the duration of an author's copyright was increased in Europe from 50 years after death to 70 years after death. As a result:

  • British copyright for writings by Lawrence first published in his lifetime and during the 20 years following his death (i.e. up to the end of 1955) expired on 1 January 2006.

  • British copyright for writings by Lawrence first published between 1 January 1956 and 1 January 1996 will extend for 50 years from first publication or to 1 January 2040, whichever is earlier.

  • British copyright for all writings by Lawrence unpublished on 1 January 1996 will expire in 1 January 2040, whether or not they have been published in the meantime.

Under these rules, a large amount of Lawrence's published writing went out of British copyright on 1 January 2006.

Note, however:

  • Where a work contains prefatory or editorial material by another author, that writing is protected separately. For example, the letters by Lawrence in David Garnett's 1938 edition of The Letters of T.E. Lawrence went out of copyright on 1 January 2006, but Garnett's editorial commentary and notes will remain in copyright until 70 years after his death.

  • Where a text is jointly authored and the authorship of individual sections is not defined, copyright extends for 70 years from the death of whichever author dies last. Thus, for example, British copyright in The Wilderness of Zin will last until until 70 years after the death of Leonard Woolley, Lawrence's co-author.

Which writings by Lawrence went out of UK copyright on 1 January 2006?

Major works:

  • Crusader Castles

  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926 subscribers' abridgement)*

  • Revolt in the Desert

  • The Mint

*NB. US copyright law is not aligned with European copyright law. The 1926 subscribers' abridgement of Seven Pillars will remain in copyright in the US for considerably longer. Note also that the fuller 1922 'Oxford' text of Seven Pillars was not published until 1997. The source texts will remain in copyright until 1 January 2040.


  • Two Arabic Folk Tales

  • The Forest Giant

  • The Odyssey of Homer

  • Poem by Emir Feisal

Collected editions of minor writings:

  • Secret Despatches from Arabia

  • Oriental Assembly

  • Men in Print

  • The Essential T. E. Lawrence

Contributions to periodicals including:

  • Army Quarterly

  • Round Table

  • The Times

  • Daily Express

  • Sunday Times

  • Observer

  • The Landmark

  • Spectator

Minor writings including:

  • The 1911 Diary

  • The Advance of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force [contribs. By TEL]

  • Preface to the 1921 Leicester Galleries exhibition catalogue of Kennington's Arab Portraits

  • Blurb for Sturly

  • Introduction to The Twilight of the Gods

  • Introduction to Travels in Arabia Deserta

  • 'Myself' - obituary published in the Evening Standard

Collections of letters:

  • Letters to Bruce Rogers

  • More Letters to Bruce Rogers

  • The Letters of T. E. Lawrence, ed. D. Garnett [TEL text]

  • T. E. Lawrence to his Biographer Robert Graves [TEL text]

  • T. E. Lawrence to his Biographer Liddell Hart [TEL text]

  • Letters to Viscount Carlow

  • Eight Letters from T.E.L.

  • Shaw-Ede

  • The Golden Reign [TEL text]

  • Genius of Friendship [TEL text]

  • The Home Letters of T. E. Lawrence and his Brothers

Other writings:

Numerous Lawrence letters appeared in autobiographies and other books by third parties published before the end of 1955.

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