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Inside the Kingdom Paperback – 22 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; Airports / Ireland / Export and Waterstones ed edition (22 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091931258
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091931254
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.1 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,596,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A Brief life of the Queen.

I have been writing about the Queen now for nearly forty years, and this little book is intended to distil and re-shape what I've learned into one pleasant afternoon's reading - a summary of its predecessors Majesty (1977) and Monarch (2002, Royal in the UK), with further research and thoughts on Elizabeth II in the year of her Diamond Jubilee.

'Lege feliciter', as the Venerable Bede used to say - May you read happily!

- Robert Lacey, January 2012 -

Robert Lacey is an historian and biographer whose research has taken him from the Middle East ("The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Saud") to America's Mid-West ("Ford: the Men and the Machine"). "Majesty", his pioneering biography of Queen Elizabeth II, is the definitive study of British monarchy - a subject on which Robert lectures around the world, appearing regularly on ABC's Good Morning America and on CNN's Larry King Live.

Product Description


"Beautifully written and thought-provoking ... Robert Lacey has written a highly accomplished book which should go into the bags of anyone who has to travel to the kingdom" (Literary Review)

"Compelling ... [I] know of no book that captures so convincingly the intimate connection between the kingdom and the rise of al-Qaeda and its jihadist ideology...What distinguishes Mr Lacey's account is his use of Saudi voices - many of them, even in this most reticent of cultures, on the record - to anatomise a deeply rooted culture of intolerance" (Economist)

"Incisive ... The real triumph of this book ... is the way it peels away the layers of mystery that shroud a civil society of which we have almost no knowledge" (Sunday Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

The complex story of what's been happening within Saudi Arabia - while the West wasn't looking --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Diacha on 8 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a disturbing book. Robert Lacey's "Inside the Kingdom" paints a compelling picture of a key ally of the West that is also the breeding ground for our most impassioned enemies. The Kingdom is held together by a skilled and ruthless balancing act by the ruling Al Saud clan. How long can it last? Is it desirable that it should last? What is the alternative?

Lacey describes Saudi Arabia through a series of loosely linked journalistic vignettes and case studies (" think tanks and foreign affairs societies can offer statistics and analyses aplenty," he observes). He introduces us to terrorists, holy men, secret policemen, reformers both male and female, a former Guantanamo inmate, a rape victim (who suffers more perhaps in the social aftermath than in the crime itself) and even princes and kings, both corrupt and benign. Lacey has penetrated deep into the psyche of the Kingdom, and he takes us with him. His overall tone is respectful and even empathic. This makes his picture all the more unsettling.

The central strand of Lacey's episodic narrative is the tight alliance of convenience between the Al Saud and the Wahhabi clerisy (named after the eighteenth century cleric, Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab). The terms were straightforward: in return for supporting the dynasty's temporal rule (and disportionate access to the nation's wealth), the Wahhabis would be given supreme authority in matters spiritual, a sphere to which they gave a broad and in some regards an arguably un-Islamic definition. This deal was first struck at the formation of the first Kingdom in 1774 and was reasserted on the formation of the modern state in 1932 by King Abdul Aziz.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Neil Kernohan on 25 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a fairly balanced and objective book about modern Saudi Arabia. Lacey provides a succinct and perceptive assessment of how the country's religious conservatism spawned Osama bin Laden and a generation of nihilists and how the Saudi establishment had to wake up and smell the coffee after 9/11. He is particularly good on the duplicity and intrigue associated with US-Saudi relations throughout the last 30 years and how this has had a profound influence on the politics of the Greater Middle East. In places the book conveys some sense of cautious optimism about how the country is slowly edging towards greater openness and equality for its citizens, especially women, under King Abdullah's unique brand of enlightened though cautious despotism. But well publicised episodes about the sheer medieval cruelty that still pervades Saudi society are also described in chilling detail. One is left with the impression of a country still held hostage to its own failings as a society run by the Wahabist brand of Islam in spite of the wealth and influence brought about by its oil status. This country still has a long way to go before it earns the sort of respect from the free world that the Al Saud dynasty so obviously crave.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Mwmbwls on 10 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Saudi Arabia is not one country but a series of conflicting economic and political tectonic plates that slip and slide, emerge and subsume as groups such the young and the old, the merchant class and the unemployed,the empowered princely class and the unempowered population at large,and the religious and technical classes all compete. The House of Saud has since the Kingdom's foundation managed to ease the symptoms of tension between the plates but is generally unfitted to cope with the underlying causal economic pressures.

Robert Lacey's book "Inside the Kingdom" follows on his earlier book "The Kingdom". As a director of a number of Middle East programmes, working for a major United Kingdom company I made his earlier book compulsary reading for anybody joining my organisation.As ever Lacey has done an excellent job capturing the mood of the Kingdom as it sleepwalked itself into the current crisis.The investments in infrastructure in health care,roads,electrification but most of all clean water and sanitation, made in the 1970's and 1980's, slashed infant and particularly neo natal mortality.In the early 1960's two out of three children died before they were five. By the end of the eighties this number had fallen to Western European levels. This outbreak of children brought in its wake another burst of infrastructure investment as schools had to be built. In the mid eighties there were twice as many children in nursery education as there were in primary education who in turn were twice as many as in secondary education. A fearful symetry grew. Opening the Kingdom's first public Occupational Psychology practice we advised clients on methods of effective Saudisation - the real trick was to start with good candidates - but first we had to find good candidates.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By AYK on 4 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
Saudi Arabia is a difficult place to understand. This book is an excellent historical narrative that gives the reader an insight as to how things work at the top levels and how the country's history has evolved it into the entity that it is today.

An excellent read, and well recommended for anyone who wants to understand the country, its Islamic traditions, and its relationship with the US.
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