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Destined to Disappear

Susan Pedersen: ‘Race Studies’

19 October 2016
White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations 
by Robert Vitalis.
Cornell, 272 pp., $29.95, November 2015, 978 0 8014 5397 7
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... Robert Vitalis​ tells a great story about how he came to write this book. Some years ago, sitting in the Clark University library avoiding grading his students’ final exams, he pulled an old history of the university off the shelf. Clark played a key role in the birth of the field of international relations in the two decades before the First World War, he read, especially by founding and supporting one of the new discipline’s flagship journals, the Journal of Race Development ...

Past Its Peak

Robert Vitalis: The Oil Curse

17 December 2009
Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil 
by Peter Maass.
Allen Lane, 276 pp., £20, October 2009, 978 1 84614 246 8
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... In 1905 a British journalist called James Dodds Henry travelled to Baku, an enclave on the southern frontier of the Russian Empire that had recently become the centre of the world oil industry. ‘If oil is king, Baku is its throne,’ he wrote in Baku: An Eventful History. But the Russian industry was even then beginning a precipitous decline following a series of crippling strikes in the oilfields led by a young Joseph Stalin, and rebellion was spreading across the Caucasus ...

In Princes’ Pockets

Tariq Ali: Saudi Oil

19 July 2007
America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier 
by Robert Vitalis.
Stanford, 353 pp., £19.50, November 2006, 0 8047 5446 2
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Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation 
by Madawi Al-Rasheed.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £19.99, November 2006, 0 521 85836 4
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... recipients are now well trained. Which is why America’s Kingdom comes as a pleasant surprise. Robert Vitalis, who teaches political science at the University of Pennsylvania, has produced a scholarly and readable book on the interaction between Saudi society and Aramco, the US oil giant that had its beginnings when the Saudi government granted its ...

Sons and Heirs

Robert Vitalis: The bin Ladens and Their Money

4 December 2008
The Bin Ladens: The Story of a Family and Its Fortune 
by Steve Coll.
Allen Lane, 671 pp., £25, April 2008, 978 1 84614 124 9
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... Steve Coll’s book tells two stories: a big one about how the bin Laden family cashed in on the oil bonanza in Saudi Arabia, and a smaller one about Osama’s role in the family business before he turned to holy warfare. Although well written, lucid and packed with useful detail, The Bin Ladens doesn’t establish much of a connection between the family firm in Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden’s jihad in Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan and America, except that oil wealth funded both ...

So it must be for ever

Thomas Meaney: American Foreign Policy

13 July 2016
American Foreign Policy and Its Thinkers 
by Perry Anderson.
Verso, 244 pp., £14.99, March 2014, 978 1 78168 667 6
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A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role 
by John A. Thompson.
Cornell, 343 pp., £19.95, October 2015, 978 0 8014 4789 1
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A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s 
by Daniel J. Sargent.
Oxford, 369 pp., £23.49, January 2015, 978 0 19 539547 1
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...  ...

Did Harold really get it in the eye?

Patrick Wormald: The Normans

3 June 2004
The Battle of Hastings, 1066 
by M.K. Lawson.
Tempus, 288 pp., £16.99, October 2003, 0 7524 1998 6
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The Normans: The History of a Dynasty 
by David Crouch.
Hambledon, 345 pp., £25, July 2002, 1 85285 387 5
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Domesday Book: A Complete Translation 
edited by Ann Williams and G.H. Martin.
Penguin, 1436 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 14 143994 7
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... Senlac, taken by Freeman from the later but richly detailed account of the Anglo-Norman Orderic Vitalis. We may even glimpse the stakes of the defensive ‘palisade’ recorded in the yet later but even richer verse romance by Wace (also credited by Freeman though scornfully demolished by Round). The English ‘state’ was eminently capable of organising ...

Why did they lose?

Tom Shippey: Why did Harold lose?

12 March 2009
The Battle of Hastings: The Fall of Anglo-Saxon England 
by Harriet Harvey Wood.
Atlantic, 257 pp., £17.99, November 2008, 978 1 84354 807 2
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... of Recent Events’. Others were written much later, like the 12th-century accounts of Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury, ‘Florence’ of Worcester and the detailed account of the battle of Stamford Bridge written in the 13th century by the Icelander Snorri Sturluson as part of The Saga of Haraldr Hardrádi; Wood keeps quoting this, though with ...

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