Readable history of Saudi Arabia
November 5, 2017 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Recent events have made me realise I'm quite ignorant about the history of Saudi Arabia. Please point me to relevant sources (magazines, journals, books equally welcome). I'm particularly interested in the global geo-political context and treatment of women. Less so in the intricacies of prince such and such's relationship to prince so and so, unless it directly relates to the former.
posted by roolya_boolya to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
America's Kingdom might be up your alley. I'm no expert on the middle east and I haven't read it myself, but I know others who are big fans. The author, Robert Vitalis, is a political scientist, but apparently it reads more like a history.
posted by col_pogo at 1:54 PM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom is one well-regarded book, though with information a little outdated.
posted by yclipse at 2:28 PM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I came to recommend ^ this book as well. IIRC the author lived in Saudi just as OPEC was becoming a powerhouse, so the 1970s. She describes how King Saud united the tribes, the discovery of oil, the introduction of money in the 30s, their inferiority complex when compared to other middle eastern civilizations with more historic achievements, the growing pains of too much wealth too fast, and the trade off with the Wahabis. It was fascinating.

ETA I read the original book, not the updated edition.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:46 PM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


From Wikipedia's article about Robert Lacey:
Lacey's 1981 work The Kingdom and its 2009 follow-up Inside the Kingdom have now both been cited as standard study texts for the diplomatic community working inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. David Brancaccio said: "In Saudi Arabia, Robert Lacey had the kind of access most journalists only dream of."
posted by Fukiyama at 4:47 PM on November 5, 2017


If you are interested in English-language (and western perspective) commentary on current affairs in Saudi and the Gulf region, and are on twitter, I recommend following Kristian Ulrichsen (@Dr_Ulrichsen), Kristina Bogos (@krisbogos), Toby Matthiesen (@tobymatthiesen), and Cinzia Bianco (@Cinzia_Bianco). They often suggest books as well.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 9:42 PM on November 5, 2017


Cultureshock Saudi Arabia was a useful guide for preparing me for my first trip there. The country is fast changing and regions differ considerably - so not all details are as described. The book contains a pretty good potted history. It is a starting point.
posted by rongorongo at 5:08 AM on November 6, 2017


On treatment of women, Princess by Jean Sasson is a non-fiction account of the life of an anonymous Saudi princess. Its focus is not on history/politics, although there is a fair bit sprinkled throughout for context. Very gripping and eye-opening, although I'm sure some things have changed since its initial publication in 1992.
posted by gueneverey at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2017


The Siege of Mecca does a deep dive into the Wahhabi uprising and seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, as well as the consequences for the ruling family being constrained to make concessions to the clerics.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:57 PM on November 6, 2017


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