King Hussein of Jordan: A Political Life

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9780300091670: King Hussein of Jordan: A Political Life
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A towering figure in the history of Jordan, King Hussein reigned for nearly half a century, from his grandfather’s assassination in 1953 to his own death in 1999. In this fascinating biography, Nigel Ashton recounts the eventful life of the king who not only survived but flourished amidst crisis after crisis as ruler of a poor desert nation surrounded by powerful and hostile neighbors. Hussein skillfully navigated complicated relationships with the British, his fellow Arab leaders, the new bordering state of Israel, masses of dispossessed Palestinians within his kingdom, every U.S. president from Eisenhower to Clinton, and every British prime minister from Churchill to Blair. This book illuminates the private man, his key relationships, and his achievements and disappointments as a central player in the tough world of Middle Eastern politics.

Ashton has had unique access to King Hussein’s private papers, including his secret correspondence with U.S., British, and Israeli leaders, and he has also conducted numerous interviews with members of Hussein’s circle and immediate family. The resulting book brings new depth to our understanding of the popular and canny king while also providing new information about the wars of 1967 and 1973, President Reagan’s role in the Iran-Contra affair, the evolution of the Middle East peace process, and much more.

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About the Author:

Nigel Ashton is senior lecturer, Department of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science, and author of Kennedy, Macmillan and the Cold War.

From School Library Journal:

King Hussein bin Talal ruled the small kingdom of Jordan for 47 tumultuous years and became an influential figure in Middle Eastern and world politics. Ashton (senior lecturer, London Sch. of Economics and Political Science) and Shlaim (international politics, Oxford Univ.) have each produced substantial, well-researched studies praising King Hussein's efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to the Middle East. Both books demonstrate Hussein's skill at maintaining stability in Jordan, a country lacking natural resources, thus obliging its king to use intelligence, diplomatic skill, and personal charm to maintain its independence in the face of war and military incursions from Israel and political intrigue or threats from his Arab "allies." With a substantial Palestinian population, Jordan could not escape entanglement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hussein preserved the integrity of his kingdom by astute, often secret diplomacy with Israel and ongoing, mostly successful efforts to build regular communication and mutual respect with British and American leaders. His ability to sustain Jordanian independence was less than his lifelong dream, however, and he failed to achieve his vision of unifying the Arab world under the leadership of his family's dynastic rule. Both writers agree that although Hussein's resistance to joining the American-led coalition against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991 greatly undermined his favorable standing in the United States, his funeral in 1999 attracted mourners from all over the world, including four American presidents. Extensive interviews and archival research in Jordan and elsewhere enabled both authors to give us readable accounts of a fascinating political and diplomatic career, as well as an understanding of the thoughtfulness and personal graciousness that characterized the man. Libraries collecting in the history of the Middle East should have both these well-balanced and well-written studies, but if only one is possible, the Shlaim volume, with greater attention to the intricacies of Middle Eastern relations, would be most suitable for readers with a strong interest in the subject.—Elizabeth R. Hayford, formerly with Associated Colls. of the Midwest, Evanston, IL
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9780300163957: King Hussein of Jordan: A Political Life

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ISBN 10:  0300163959 ISBN 13:  9780300163957
Publisher: Yale University Press, 2010
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