Documentary Studies in Arabian Geopolitics: South-West Arabia: Saudi Arabia–Yemen Dispute

ISBN: 978-1-85207-480-7  Extent: 6 volumes, 4,000 pages
Editor: R. Schofield, Former Deputy Director of the Geopolitics Research Centre, SOAS, London  Published: 1993
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library binding with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available 


The Arabian Geopolitics series is a series of documentary studies that examines the key issues in the political evolution of strategic regions of the Arabian Peninsula. It explores the historical background to contemporary developments in political and territorial authority. It highlights the interaction of inter-state relations and claims, traditional trade and tribal activity and the extent to which natural resources dictate national claims.

This 6 volume set contains documents illustrating the origins of political and territorial authority, and the course of inter-state relations and claims, traditional trade and tribal activity in the area of the Saudi-Yemen border. The editor, Richard Schofield, was Deputy Director of the Geopolitics Research Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and editor or author of numerous studies on Arab boundary questions.


In Autumn 1995 the Saudi-Yemeni border constituted Arabia´s last indeterminate territorial limit, with the exception of its westernmost stretches, from the Red Sea to Najran, settled by a treaty of 1934. Talks between the Riyadh and Sana´a Governments on the unresolved border question had been intermittently in progress since July 1992. In February 1995 the two states signed a memorandum of understanding reaffirming the provision of the 1934 Treaty of Taif. The Treaty was formally renewed in June 1995, providing for a re-demarcation of the westernmost boundary and establishing a procedural framework for the settlement of the remainder of the boundary further east.
 The six volumes in Arabian Geopolitics 1: South-west Arabia provide the reader with a wide historical context in which to view the efforts to finalise the political map of the south-western peninsula. Any settlement finally reached between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, whether by direct negotiations, third-party mediation or arbitration, would need to take full account of a number of critical factors which have shaped the history of their borderlands: the nature, strength and relevance of historic claims; the allegiance of tribes; the degree to which effective occupancy has been extended to the territory claimed by each state. Much useful information on these questions is provided in the records maintained by the British Government during their 129-year stay in Aden, selectively reproduced in this collection.


This collection of historical documents provides an examination of the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, as at 1995. Such an historical review highlights many of the tensions that have contributed to the more recent degradation of the relationship between the two states.


Volumes 1 and 2 fall under the collective heading: Boundaries, territorial claims and disputes.

  • Volume 1 concentrates on the old Anglo-Ottoman inter-Yemen border, a boundary which only disappeared in May 1990 with the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, previously the Imamate of Yemen and the Aden Protectorate respectively.
  • Volume 2 concentrates on Saudi Arabia's southern borderlands with the newly unified Yemen.

Volumes 3 to 5 are categorised under the general heading: The shaping of state territory in south-west Arabia.

  • Volume 3 covers the British and Ottoman Empires in south-west Arabia, 1802-1918 and provides a documentary history of Britain's treaty relations with the tribal confederations of south-west Arabia, courtesy of C.U. Aitchison. It continues with a survey of external involvement in the south-west peninsula over the nineteenth century.
  • Volume 4 covers the rise and fall of the Idrisi of Asir: the absorption of the province of Asir into Ibn Saud's expanding Najd/Hijazi state between 1913 and 1934.
  • Volume 5 concentrates specifically on the Hadhramawt. It reviews the evolving territorial definition of the Hadhramawt from 1855 onwards and it explores the question of its inclusion within the Aden Protectorate during the first part of the twentieth century.

Volume 6 reviews the twentieth-century history of non-British Western contacts with south-west Arabia: Italian interest, French interest in Shaikh Said, and the interests of the oil companies are successively documented.