The Kingdom is also the story of the House of Sa’ud, a dynasty that has fought its way from poverty and obscurity to wealth and power. A family characterised by fierce loyalty among its members, ruthlessness towards its enemies, and dedication to one of the world’s most severe and demanding creeds. In the updated version of his book that Robert Lacey is currently preparing, he examines the challenges facing the world’s wealthiest royal family. What are its chances of survival in the 21st century?
The Kingdom by Robert Lacey is the prequel of Inside the Kingdom, that I recently reviewed. I was amazed by the details and intricacies of Inside the Kingdom so I decided I had to go deeper in the history of the formation of Saudi Arabia. Robert Lacey wrote The Kingdom at the beginning of the 1980s, covering the events from before 1900, up to 1980. Inside the Kingdom moves from 1980 to modern times.
Very interesting. Just as entertaining. If not more so. As it spans over much more interesting events and covers the personality that put his name before Arabia. The interesting life of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud makes you feel like you’re reading about a medieval hero fighting for his kingdom. The man who made the country that has the most oil wealth and that can influence even the mighty America is indeed a fascinating figure.
The way his life philosophy and religion shape the man that will have the strength to unite all those Bedouin tribes and have them fight for the same cause if just spectacular. Most of the beginning of the book focuses on the start of the Saudi state. Then moving alongside world events and how they affect this corner of the world, we learn how much power do honour and tradition have. And how much power oil gives to a young nation as Saudi Arabia was when they literally struck gold, black gold.
It’s amazing then to see how the shoes of Abdul Aziz, who united the Kingdom, had to be filled by his sons. We follow his sons in their struggle to keep things afloat and some succeeding miraculously. It’s a different story from the one found later in Inside the Kingdom. The struggles are different and the way the family sticks together is different.
We learn with them how much power their oil had and how the US-Saudi relationship came to be what it is today. The internal power struggles of the family are something that many tried to learn about as the family tries to keep scandal away from the public eye.
Still the focus I think must stay with Abdul Aziz, and his almost mythical strength that kept the united Saudi Arabian state we see today.
Amazing how the different brothers, set to become kings, have their own style of rule and how they manage to learn with the job and stay strong for the country their father left in their care. Great to learn how this traditional Kingdom managed to learn to use the wealth it discovered under its sand and launch itself on the world stage and into the 20th century.
I really did enjoy the book and I think it’s a great addition to Inside the Kingdom. Definitely, both are worth checking out if you are interested in this part of the world and its tumultuous history.