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The Family

Malise Ruthven, 17 December 1981

The House of Saud 
by David Holden and Richard Johns.
Sidgwick, 569 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 283 98436 8
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The Kingdom 
by Robert Lacey.
Hutchinson, 631 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 09 145790 4
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... To date, the history of Saudi Arabia has largely been the story of its ruling family. No other modern state calls itself by its rulers’ surname and labels its citizens with it. Though there is now a governmental system of growing complexity, and inefficiency, with ministries, departments of state, royal commissions and so forth, power is still wielded in an arbitrary and personal manner ...

Making history

Malise Ruthven, 19 June 1986

Gertrude Bell 
by Susan Goodman.
Berg, 122 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 907582 86 9
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Freya Stark 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Viking, 144 pp., £7.95, October 1985, 0 670 80675 7
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... When, shortly before the Second World War, Freya Stark was asked by a publisher if she would write Gertrude Bell’s biography, she turned the idea down. Although she admired her famous predecessor as a fine traveller and considered Amurath to Amurath one of the best travel books she’d read, Freya was not ‘very fascinated by her as a woman’. At first sight, this judgment seems surprising ...

The Saudi Trillions

Malise Ruthven, 7 September 2017

... It made​ perfect sense that the first port of call on President Trump’s first foreign trip, in May, was Riyadh. Saudi Arabia – the world’s second largest oil producer (after Russia), the world’s biggest military spender as a proportion of GDP, the main sponsor of Islamist fighting groups across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq, the leader of a coalition in a devastating war against Yemeni rebels now in its third year – is a country one can do business with, even as the most ardent Kremlinologists in the West struggle to understand it ...

Islam and Reform

Akeel Bilgrami, 28 June 1990

A Satanic Affair: Salman Rushdie and the Rage of Islam 
by Malise Ruthven.
Chatto, 184 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 7011 3591 3
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... colonialism and Cold War politics in parts of the world where there are large Muslim populations. Malise Ruthven’s book traverses a good deal of this larger canvas and has some useful and some, by now, familiar things to say. He brings out, writing of the Muslim reverence for Muhammad and the Quran, why Rushdie’s allegory goes straight for the ...

Hot Dogs

Malcolm Bull, 14 June 1990

Mine eyes have seen the glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America 
by Randall Balmer.
Oxford, 246 pp., $19.95, September 1989, 0 19 505117 3
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In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt, USA 
by Douglas Kennedy.
Unwin Hyman, 240 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 04 440423 9
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The Divine Supermarket 
by Malise Ruthven.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3151 9
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The Democratisation of American Christianity 
by Nathan Hatch.
Yale, 312 pp., £22.50, November 1989, 0 300 44470 2
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Religion and 20th-Century American Intellectual Life 
edited by Michael Lacey.
Cambridge/Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars, 214 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 521 37560 6
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New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America 
by Mary Farrell Bednarowski.
Indiana, 175 pp., $25, November 1989, 0 253 31137 3
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... often leave to join churches with a more liberal theological orientation. In this context, Malise Ruthven’s journey – which begins at the tomb of Roger Williams (the founder of Providence, Rhode Island), takes in memorials to Brigham Young, Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton, and ends at the grave of Thomas Jefferson – has a distinctly ...

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