Historiography in Saudi Arabia: globalization and the state in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia is generally and justifiably viewed as a country with some of the fewest democratic institutions and the weakest traditions of pluralism. It is therefore surprising to learn that at least in one corner of the Saudi world, there can be found a plurality of opinions and lively debate. Jorg Matthias Determann brings this element to light by analysing an important field of cultural activity in Saudi Arabia: historical writing. Since the 1920s local, tribal, Shi'i and dynastic histories have contributed to a growing plurality of narratives. Paradoxically, this happened because of the expansion of the Saudi state, including state provision of mass education. It was also due to globalizing processes, such as the spread of the internet. In challenging the widely-held perception of Saudi Arabia as an irredeemably closed and monolithic society, Historiography in Saudi Arabia provides a deeper understanding of modern Arab historiography, the Saudi state, and education and scholarship in the Middle East.