Arabian Peninsula: The Rise and Fall of the Hashimite Kingdom of Arabia

Article excerpt

The Rise and Fall of the Hashimite King. dom of Arabia, by Joshua Teitelbaum. New York: New York University Press, 2001. xviii + 288 pages. Abbrevs. Bibl. to p. 303. Index to p. 310. $40.

Joshua Teitelbaum of Tel Aviv University has written what will become the standard history of the Hashimite kingdom of the Hijaz. It is an excellent account of that short time from 1916 to 1925 when the Sharif Husayn ibn `Ali and his family ruled the holy cities of Western Arabia, following the Arab Rebellion against the Ottoman Empire and preceding the Saudi conquest.

The author presents a detailed analysis of the main features of the Hashimite kingdom, featuring discussion of the late Ottoman period, the ambitions of Husayn for autonomy or independence, the first military successes against the Ottomans in 19161917, state use of coercion and the construction of a local military force, British subsidies and Hijazi finances, relations with urban elites and tribal shaykhs, the ill-fated claim of Husayn to the Caliphate, and the Saudi defeat of the Hashimites in the Hijaz. In this book, Teitelbaum relatively briefly discusses the negotiations between the British and Husayn and the nature of the promises made to the Hashimites, perhaps because this hotly-debated subject has been the preoccupation of so many other historians who identified its ramifications for the future of Arab independence and nationalism. Instead, the author focuses on other aspects of Husayn's rule, both internally and externally.

The author casts light on many neglected topics, for instance, the nature of Hashimite administration in Madina. Chapter 5 contains a particularly interesting discussion of Husayn's actions in regard to law and its application in society. Attempts at creating a cohesive army are also analyzed in a way that illuminates the general problems of running a government that bedeviled Husayn. The regime in Mecca enjoyed some initial support, but its extortion of money from merchants and its mishandling of tribal groups soon alienated those segments of society. By the beginning of the 1920s, Husayn was unpopular with most of the population.

The chief theoretical orientation of the book involves the successful application of Joseph Kostiner's concept of the evolution of tribal chieftaincy, originally applied to the growth of the Saudi state, but now tested in reference to the failure of the Hashimites in the Hijaz. …

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