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A History of Jordan [Paperback]

Philip Robins
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: £21.99
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Book Description

9 Feb 2004
Philip Robins' survey of Jordan's political history begins in the early 1920s, continues through the years of the British Mandate, and traces events over the next half-century to the present day. Throughout the period, the country's fortunes were closely identified with its head of state, King Hussein, until his death in 1999. In the early days, as the author testifies, the King's prospects were often regarded as grim. However, both King and country survived a variety of existential challenges, from assassination attempts and internal subversion, to a civil war with the Palestine Liberation Organisation and, in the 1970s and 1980s, it emerged as an apparently stable and prosperous state. However, King Hussein's death, the succession of his son, Abdullah II, and recent political upheavals have plunged the country back into uncertainty. This is an incisive account, compellingly told, about one of the leading players in the Middle East.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (9 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521598958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521598958
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 630,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'An incisive and compellingly told account of one of the most important countries in the Middle East …'. Quarterly Journal of African and Asian Studies

Book Description

Philip Robins traces Jordan's political history from pre-Independence to the present day. Despite a succession of wars and economic uncertainty, the 1970s and 1980s were relatively prosperous years. However, the death of Hussein and recent tensions in the region have renewed uncertainty. This is an incisive account, compellingly told.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3.0 out of 5 stars interesting 8 April 2013
By julesd
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
but perhaps a little too academic/dry for a visitor/tourist (me). as a start to further study is quite a useful read with references to other books & papers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars good book 21 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is a good book for people interested in the history of the country on the importance of Jordan and its strategic position in the region. The lines of ideas in the book is not difficult to follow but it falls short in the description of the people. It is greatly based in the political maneuvers of the rollers.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and thorough 1 Oct 2009
By Deena
A History of Jordan is detailed and thorough, it begins in post WW1 Jordan and ends with King Abdullah II assuming the throne. The book provides an insightful overview for those wanting to familiarise themselves with the political history of the country. Where the book falls short, as many books about the Middle East do, is provide insight into the society and the experiences of citizens themselves. Obviously no fault of the author's: the dearth of such material largely means that Arab histories often take the form of the ruler(s) biographies. The book is rich and insightful, narrates events in a cohesive and easy to follow manner.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Backwater to Strategic Ally 9 Jan 2006
By P. Smyth - Published on Amazon.com
Jordan is a nation that according to some accounts, was "dreamed of from the backseat of Churchill's car." Formerly an Ottoman ruled area, Jordan Stretches from the Syrian Desert in the north to the Gulf of Aqaba in the south. the nation was considered by most to be a backwater inhabited by various Bedouin tribes. It is interesting to note that on Amazon.com I have seen only a few histories of this pivotal nation, when you search for "Jordan" most of the results deal with basketball player Michael Jordan. This book came as a fresh surprise.

After the allied victory in 1918, over the Central Powers (including the Ottoman Empire), Ottoman lands were split up by the victorious French and British. As a result the nation that later became known as Transjordan and later Jordan was administered by British as part of the Mandate of Palestine. Another result of World War 1 was that England's former ally the Sherif of Mecca needed to be rewarded for his assistance. After the French kicked Abdullah out of Damascus, the English had to give him some slice of land, that "slice" was Jordan.

Later in 1922 Jordan gained "independence" from the British Palestine Mandate becoming Transjordan, and achieving full independence in 1946. After the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 Jordan had complete control over the West Bank and the Eastern half of Jerusalem. Later in 1967 Jordan lost control of the West Bank and 3 years later fought a civil war with Palestinians (and Syria).

In the present time Jordan has proved itself to be not just some desert backwater inhabited by warring Bedouin tribes. It has become a geographically strategic nation, bordering Syria, oil rich Saudi Arabia, war torn Iraq, and Israel. This nation has seen a succession moderate kings who have pushed for peace with Israel in addition to a tourist Mecca (with sites like Petra and resorts like Aqaba).

Robins has done quite an exstensive job explaining the many facets of Jordanian culture, history, and politics. From when the Ottomans ruled to the modern era, the author has delved into a wide variety of topics ranging from the influence of Islamists on Jordanian politics, the result of massive influxes of Palestinians (that are now over half of the population), descriptions of leaders ranging from Wasfi Tall to King Abdullah, to how familial and tribal relations still effect the nation.

The book while only about 200 pages long does offer a very exstensive and well written history of this nation. I would recommend this to anyone studying the Middle East. While it is a shame that many books on this small nation have not been forthcomming, this book does a very good job at explaining the nation, its people, and its politics.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad book, but not a great one either. I'd rate it 3.5/5 12 April 2010
By L. King - Published on Amazon.com
There isn't much written about the history of Jordan because there isn't that much to tell outside of the modern era. From the Crusades to the 1870's Jordan appears to be a rather uninteresting underpopulated backwater of the Ottoman empire. Ch I gives rather short shrift to the past before 1920. One concludes that Jordan is a modern construct and not a successor state, as might be considered to be the case of Egypt, Syria or Iran. Little is said here about the migration of Hashemites from the south or of the origins of roving Bedouins and the relationships of different groups of clans prior to the origin of the state, or why the Royal Family who were from Saudi Arabia were able to assume rule so easily.

The book's approach is to view the history of the country using Royal family as it's focus. We learn about issues of succession, the relationship between the Royals and various Prime Ministers, Parliament and key figures such as Glubb Pasha, the British Army Advisor who was on permanent loan to Jordan and head of Jordan's Army during the key time frame from 1939-'56. pp42-45 does give some limited information on the different tribal groups and credits Glubb as the establishing force for unity between the various tribes - the first time they had been united since the fall of the Ummayad Dynasty in 750 AD.

To a larger extent the book focused on personalities rather than policies. The treatment of the Royal family is nearly hagiographic, reserving itself for only the mildest criticism. A second example is in the coverage of the various individual holding the post of Prime Minister, in particular the rivalry between Wasfi al-Tall and Bahjat al-Talhuni. 'Tall was energetic, loud and on occasions,course. Talhuni was quiet and careful. Tall was direct, stubborn and bullying; Talhuni was a more devious political operator.' pp108.

The most interesting section of the book deals with the Jordan's relationship with ethnic Palestinians. In 1950 a Palestinian delegation proposed and received unification of both sides of the Jordan. King Abdallah encouraged integration by revising parliament so that there was equal representation to the East and West Bank, not quite fair by % of population but not inconsistent with the allocation of seats in the rest of the world which recognize not only numbers of people but give weight to geographic units. Over the following years economic of policy favored the eastern half of the country centering on the capital Amman.

Particularly fascinating was the coverage of the battle for representation of Palestinians after the Six Day War. King Hussein promoted the concept of a "United Arab Kingdom" (UAK), appealing to pan-Jordan sentiments amongst ethnic Palestinians on both sides of the Jordan. At the Rabat Conference in 1974 Egypt, which constructed the PLO attempt to usurp Hussein's authority by proposing the PLO be "the sole representative of the Palestinian people"on BOTH sides of the Jordan. Hussein managed to get Sadat to modify the language to exclude those living on the East Bank within Jordan. (pp138).

The author could have done a better job on covering the economic history. On pp 166 the author suddenly mentions that Jordan in 1988-89 had become an economic basket case with the highest per capita debt in the world, needing to be bailed out by the IMF, though there is some lead in on pp112 where it is revealed that 75% of all imports were paid for from abroad. There is a useful chart on pp167 showing the growth of the deficit. Additionally for years the Jordanian economy had not been self sufficient and was entirely reliant on funds supplied to it by neighbouring oil rich states. A little build up to this would have been revealing and there is no reference to the reasons why the neighbouring rentier States would want to prop up the monarchy or the basis as to how these sums were negotiated

For an Israeli perspective on Jordan Robin uses and seems to recommend the late historian Uriel Dann. The bibliography at the back is an excellent starting point for further investigation though most references are to papers and books that might be unavailable outside of a university setting - that might change if more of this material becomes available through the web. I should also mention another book which I'm currently reading is Ancient Jordan from the Air which is a veritable treasure trove of information about settlement in the area, confirming the general decline between the 3rd and 19th century.

Notwithstanding some of the deficiencies describe above I would recommend this book as a good starting point on modern Jordan. Some of the treatments are superficial but there is a kernel of good material.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! 27 July 2014
By Marie - Published on Amazon.com
This is a very informational book that makes things clear and easy to understand. If you are interested in getting a quick and to the point summary of the history of Jordan, I greatly recommend this product! It is interesting and informative.
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