King Abdul Aziz: Diplomacy and Statecraft 1902–1953

ISBN:  (13) 978-1-85207-885-0  Extent:  4 volumes, 2,000 pages
Editor: A.L.P. Burdett  Published: 1999
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available


This collection of primary source documents provides the most continuous source available of reports and commentary on local events within the territory of the present Saudi Arabia under the rule of King Abdul Aziz. They reflect the methods, policies and diplomacy employed by Abdul Aziz in extending and then consolidating the Saudi state. Although the papers necessarily reflect British diplomatic interests, this work illustrates particularly well the rise to power of Abdul Aziz and his concern to build his own prestige and establish a unified kingdom and traces his relations with Arab rulers as well as with Britain, other European powers and the United States.


Much has been written on the life of Abdul Aziz bin ´Abdurahman Al-Faisal Al-Sa´ud, one of the most successful, admired and dynamic of Arab leaders to emerge in the first half of the 20th century, whose legacy, the state of Saudi Arabia, may be said to be in its 3rd epoch. Unlike other leaders who generally inherited a title and territory, Abdul Aziz was in exile with his father from 1892-1901, and had to recapture areas previously held by the Al-Sa´ud dynasty. From 1902-1912 he gathered loyal tribes and incorporated the Akhwan belief-system under his standard, drove back the Turks from al-Hasa in 1913, proceeded with the conquest of the remainder of Najd over 1914-1923, then Hijaz, 1924-25, and Asir, 1926. From 1926 to his death in 1953 he reigned as King first of Nejd-Hijaz, and then the unified state of Saudi Arabia.
Although there are numerous biographies of either Abdul Aziz or the Sa´udi family, and narrative histories, this set differs in that it presents original documents from British official sources which when arranged by issues, depict the methods, policy decisions and diplomatic skills demonstrated by Abdul Aziz in forging a strong, and effectively the third, Saudi State, (the first extended from 1744 -1822, the second from 1823-1891). This work depicts the evolving stature of King Abdul Aziz, and therefore Saudi Arabia, in the local and international community through political and diplomatic means. Since the focus is on inter-action with other Arab rulers, regions and organisations, as well as with the main European powers (Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Germany, and later, the United States) periods when Ibn Sa´ud was consolidating his power base or undertaking repetitive and inconclusive tribal skirmishes/ raids are not represented. For instance during World War I his resources were devoted to defeating the Rashidi clan and the Shammar of Najd, therefore only the problem of relations with Sherif Hussein and the British government are addressed. The set attempts to underline his use of diplomacy as a device to both build his prestige, and deal with international powers on their own terms.


The documents published in this collection have been drawn from British Government records, in particular from the British Library (Oriental and India Office Collections) and Foreign Office files at the Public Record Office.
King Abdul Aziz: Diplomacy and Statecraft 1902-1953 makes available for the most part papers not previously published. The collection is to be seen as complementary to other titles from Archive Editions: the greater part of Abdul Aziz´s surviving correspondence with the British, in English and Arabic, is published in King Abdul Aziz: Political Correspondence 1904-1953.


Volume 1: 1902-1926
1.01 Re-establishment of the Al-Saud in Nejd, 1902-1906: from the re-capture of Riyadh to expansion into Nejd, the effect on relations with the Sultan of Turkey in view of his policy of support for the Rashidi clan; rumours of a possible revolt by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud reach the Turks and require reassurance to the Sultan in 1905
1.02 Negotiations with the Ottoman government and with the British government, who refused to change their policy of non-interference because of relations with the Sultan of Turkey, 1904-1906; eventual death of Ibn Rashid: implications for the balance of power in Nejd, 1906
1.03 Expansion into the coastal corridors of the Persian Gulf, to Trucial States and Muscat, and response of the British government: warning of interference with Qatar and Dubai, and relations with the Gulf rulers, 1905-1908
1.04 Setbacks and advances, 1907-1913, culminating in the taking of al-Hasa from the Turks and securing of a coastal corridor for Nejd
1.05 Renewed approaches to British officials; initial neutrality on declaration of war between Britain and Turkey is reversed despite agreement with the Turks of May 1914, and Abdul Aziz decides to enter formal relations with Britain in 1915
1.06 Overview of the situation in Nejd in 1916; relations with Kuwait, the move away from the Ottomans and into the western sphere, including visit of King Abdul Aziz to Basra in 1916; relations with Persian Gulf States in 1917
1.07 Inter-Arab relations during the period of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, especially with Hussein ibn Ali, the Sherif of Mecca, and role of King Abdul Aziz in containment of smuggling, 1916-1919
1.08  Revival of belligerent territorial expansion in 1918-1919: the significance of the Khurma dispute
1.09 Status of Abdul Aziz, 1920: recognition by HM Government of his title ´Sultan of Nejd´, 1920  
1.10 Deterioration of relations with the Hashemites after the defeat of the Turkish forces
1.11 Question of role of the Akhwan and their territorial aggressions; religious issues, including dispute arising from limitation by King Hussein of the numbers in the Saudi entourage travelling to perform the Hajj, 1920-1922
1.12 Relations with Persian Gulf states, notably Kuwait, and tribal support for King Abdul Aziz, 1920-1924
1.13 Consolidation of territory: the advance into Hijaz, the siege of Jeddah, and overthrow of Hashemite rule, 1924-1926
1.14 Asir, 1925-1928: King Abdul Aziz becomes ruler through a pact with El-Idrissi and the Mecca Agreement; effect on relations with Imam Yahya of Yemen
1.15 The use of diplomacy to end tribal raiding on the frontiers with Transjordan and Iraq in 1925-1926: the Bahra agreement, the Hadda Agreement, the Clayton Mission, failure of the first ´Nejd Conference´, 1925-1926
1.16 British government attempts to pursuade King Abdul Aziz to sever relations with Russian delegation to the Moslem Conference in 1926
1.17 King Abdul Aziz´s first international public meeting: the Moslem Conference held in Mecca; consideration of the Caliphate issue, 1926

Volume 2: 1927-1933
2.01  Aspects of sovereignty: King Abdul Aziz´s policy on negotiations with the British government for aviation landing rights and overflights of territory, 1926-1927
2.02 King Abdul Aziz´s authority tested over the issue of Akhwan raids, 1926-1927: his decision to prohibit raids into Iraq due to pressure from the British government leads to breach with Faisal al-Darwish
2.03 Abdul Aziz´s use of diplomatic channels, verbal and written, as well as reliance on provisions of various treaties, to resolve the situation on the Iraq frontier in an initial attempt to curb Akhwan zeal, 1927-1929
2.04 Inter-Arab relations: expansion of King Abdul Aziz´s territories and effect on relations with other Arab states, 1926-1929
2.05 External relations, 1928-1930
2.06 Internal issues 1930-1931
2.07 Foreign affairs, 1930-1931
2.08 Advent of new administrative policies in 1932 reflecting the altered international status of Hijaz-Nejd: the creation of the unified kingdom of Saudi Arabia
2.09 Challenge to Abdul Aziz´s authority: continued activities of Ibn Rifada, leader of a 1929 revolt, support for anti-Saud plots and activists in Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, and intrigues of the Al-Dabbagh family, 1932-1933
2.10 Inter-Arab relations, 1932-1933
2.11 External Affairs: relations with European powers, 1932

Volume 3: 1933-1943
3.01 Aspects of internal administration, 1933
3.02 Inter-Arab relations, 1933-1934
3.03 Renewed attempts to resolve difficulties with Amir Abdullah of Jordan: Treaty of Mutual Recognition agreed in July 1933, with proposals for meetings between the two leaders suggested in 1934
3.04  Yemen territorial conflict, 1933-1934: despatch of three Saudi delegations to the Yemen, while Imam Yahya´s demands are stepped up; failure of conference to agree on outstanding territorial issues ends in war in 1934, with Saudi victory and the Treaty of Taif
3.05 Further international developments in 1933
3.06 King Abdul Aziz´s prestige and position challenged by attempted revolt; assassination attempt on King Abdul Aziz, 1934-1935
3.07 Inter-Arab relations, 1935
3.08 Relations with Great Britain and Italy pertaining to Red Sea territories, 1935
3.09 King Abdul Aziz: aspects of personal policy; British decoration; further assassination attempt
3.10 Policy respecting Egypt: conclusion of treaty in 1936
3.11 Progress with Iraq, Persian Gulf states, evolution of Palestine policy, and Yemen, 1935-1936
3.12 Abdul Aziz´s response to Italo-Abyssinian dispute, policy regarding western powers in the Red Sea region, and decline in British prestige, 1936
3.13 Religious policy: reinforcement of strict Islamic code by Abdul Aziz, pilgrimage policy, 1937
3.14 Relations with Arab states and rulers, particularly the successful conclusion of Iraq agreement, 1937
3.15 Pressure on King Abdul Aziz over the Arab position on Palestine, his reaction to the Royal Commission Report, 1937
3.16 Abdul Aziz´s pressing need for small arms and weapons leads to appeal for British aid, and in turn, assessment by British government of his relative influence in the Middle East, 1937
3.17 Inter-Arab relations, 1938-1939
3.18 International relations in 1938-1939
3.19 The position of King Abdul Aziz at the outbreak of World War II: his policy of neutrality, despite his support for the Allies, British and French efforts to secure a declaration, 1939-1940
3.20 Relations with Germany: King Abdul Aziz´s special envoy to Germany, Arab policy and strategic position, 1939, and diminished relations in 1941
3.21 Increasing pressure and inducements from the United States and Allied powers to encourage Abdul Aziz formally to declare war against Axis powers, 1940-1943
3.22 Inter-Arab relations, 1940-1943
3.23 Relations with the British government in 1942-1943

Volume 4: 1944-1953
4.01 Abdul Aziz´s policy and concerns regarding premature convening of the Cairo conference for the founding of the League of Arab States, 1944
4.02 Abdul Aziz´s support for Allies in 1944 results in increased aid from British government
4.03 Arab unity and Egyptian relations, including meeting with King Farouk, in 1945
4.04 Following talks with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1945 King Abdul Aziz declares war on Germany; Saudi Arabia is accepted into the United Nations Organisation
4.05 Pressure on French over Syria, 1945
4.06  International relations: British policy of aid but conflict of interest with the USA develops from 1945; relations with China, 1945
4.07 Religious issues, 1945-1947
4.08 Official visit to Egypt in 1946: effect on relations with King Farouk; objections to Iraq´s planned unification with Jordan
4.09 Dissent, anti-Saud activities and concerns over Hashemite threat, 1946-1947
4.10 Diplomatic aspects of relations with the British government: alteration to status, 1946-1947
4.11 Inter-Arab affairs, 1948
4.12 Declaration on Palestine, joint Arab military action, 1948-1949
4.13 International relations: raised level of diplomatic status with Great Britain, increased interest from the USA, and China, 1948
4.14 International relations, particularly Anglo-Saudi relations, 1949
4.15 Arab League and inter-Arab relations, 1950-1951
4.16 Britain-United States policies in defence of Saudi Arabia, conflict of interest with other Middle East defensive measures, 1951-1952
4.17 Expansion of financial interests through increased taxation of oil companies, presence of foreign banks, and creation of a monetary agency, 1951-1952
4.18 Inter-Arab relations and policy directions, 1952-1953
4.19 Abdul Aziz´s final foreign policy stand in 1953: the crisis over Buraimi and the southeast frontiers reverses a half century of friendly relations with Britain, and gives way to the break in relations from 1956-1963
4.20 Death of King Abdul Aziz on 9 November 1953