Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Gulf States: A Modern History

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Gulf States: A Modern History

Article excerpt

The Gulf States: A Modern History. By David Commins. London: I.B. Tauris, 2012. 318 pp. $69.50.

Despite commonalities of history, geography, and climate, there is significant political, cultural, and economic variation between the peoples and the governments of the states bordering the Persian Gulf. This theme is explored by Commins, a historian, who offers a broad account of the region's political history in this introductory survey.

Not bound by current political borders, the author devotes equal attention to the historic regional powerhouses (Iraq and Iran) as to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. While nationalists today may claim that certain disputed territories belong to one state rather than another, Commins demonstrates that territories have repeatedly changed ownership over the centuries. He also notes that despite the binding presence of the sea, "throughout history, no local force has ever unified the gulf politically. The search to identify any such local force takes the historian to a distant past at any rate.

Despite the recent urbanization and westernization of local lifestyles, the gulf is home to a much deeper history. In this regard, Commins offers some subtle observations that connect the exercise of tribal power in the coastal areas in the past to the present: the "sheikh does not wield power in the way a powerful king does. …

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