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A dense, British-accented assemblage of information, description, and lore--for readers who don't require an overall pattern or seek overriding themes. British journal/st Bulloch, whose recollections stretch back to the '40s, has seen the tiny Gulf states go from tribal rags to oil riches; in chapter after chapter--three on preand post-independence political history, one on oil, others on ""Slaves and Immigrants,"" ""Merchants and Adventurers,"" present-day life, colonial history, and archaeological remains (in that order)--he interweaves unhackneyed aspects of ancient-and-modern. He's familiar with the individual character, and leading personalities, of each state: enormously rich, underpopulated Kuwait in the north--garish and fundamentalist; the vigorous island entrepot of Bahrain--now, ominously, connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway--and its neighboring antithesis, the arid, sluggish peninsula of Qatar; the seven mini-states of the United Arab Emirates (dominated by Abu Dhabi and Dubai)--plus peripheral Oman and North and South Yemen. Bulloch details how the problem of massive immigration--to compensate for lack of local labor and skills--differs from state to state; also, how the financial apparatus, or the condition of women, differs. (This is not uninteresting--but it's hard to retain or relate.) Judgments tend to be equivocal: Bulloch writes derisively of the Labour Government's 1968 abandonment of British commitments East of Suez, scores the Conservatives for going along--then suggests that independence was in order, and has been successful. (Platitudinously: the Gulf states may ultimately combine the best, or the worst, of Western and Arab culture.) What is notable about Bulloch's text are the particulars on everything from the non-disappearance of traditional dhows to the recent formation of the Gulf Co-operation Council, a joint effort to forestall Great-Power intervention; what is unfortunate is that even this material is scattered.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1985
Publisher: Congdon & Weed--dist. by St. Martin's