Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since my Arabia was published by Ernest Benn Limited in their Modern World Series. And since then no comprehensive attempt has ever been made, at any rate outside the limits of the Arab world, to assess the historical development of the country up to the present time or to relate that development to its past history. To some extent I have myself endeavoured to fill the gap in my Arabian Days (1948) and Arabian jubilee (1952), both published by Robert Hale Limited. But it will probably be generally admitted that the time is ripe for a reasoned survey of the achievement of the dynasty of Ibn Sa'ud from its romantic début just over two hundred years ago to our own times. And the present moment is indeed propitious for such an attempt. The old order is changing with a rapidity that bewilders the beholder, making way for a new dispensation whose implications for the future are entirely unpredictable. And the old king, the greatest of his line and probably the greatest Arab of all time with the sole exception of the Prophet Muhammad, has been gathered to his fathers: leaving the controls of State to younger hands after more than fifty years of distinguished rule, which will live for ever in the annals of the Arabs. Whatever the future may have in store for the modern State, which he carved single-handed out of the materials of a very ancient dispensation, his own record and reputation are secure for all time and beyond assail.
'The story of modern Arabia is nearly ended.' With these words I began the last chapter of Arabia a quarter of a century ago: little suspecting that a transformation was at hand, which would mark the real beginning of a modern dispensation, relegating all that had preceded it to the realm of ancient history. It was certainly difficult at that time to assess the implications of the defeat of certain Wahhabi stalwarts at Sibila during the last year of the period dealt with: who had risen against their liege lord in imagined defence of the faith of which he was the lawful defender and acknowledged champion. Did it presage a fall in the temperature of puritan zeal? Such a fall did in fact occur in . . .