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Saud, Abd al-Aziz ibn (1879–1953) and the founding of modern Saudi Arabia

Lawrence Davidson

Subject History » Nations and Peoples
Applied Psychology » Political Psychology

Place Middle and Near East » Saudi Arabia

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics bibliography, monarchy, nation, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01320.x


Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud (hereafter ibn Saud) was born in the city of Riyadh in 1879. Riyadh was the home city of the Saud clan and its ally, the family of Wahhab, which championed the conservative Islamic sect known as Wahhabism. A power struggle with a rival forced the Saudis into exile in Kuwait in 1891. Subsequently, in 1902, ibn Saud led a band of followers back into Arabia in 1902 and retook the city of Riyadh. Saudi power was confined to the area of Riyadh until immediately after World War I. After the war, ibn Saud expanded his area of control and, by 1926, had conquered most of north and central Arabia. Wherever the Saud clan ruled, it introduced the Wahhabi brand of Islam. At Mecca in 1926, ibn Saud was proclaimed King of the Hejaz and Nejd, and in 1932 his lands were unified into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While ibn Saud was a devout Muslim of Wahhabi persuasion, he was also a pragmatic leader. He understood the power of the Europeans and the modern technological forces they controlled. Ibn Saud came to an agreement with the British and allowed them to mediate frontier treaties between his own regime and those on his borders. He then began to encourage a slow and careful process of modernization. He realized that only by such a process could the monarchy satisfy the economic needs of the population and assure its ability to maintain power. The process of modernization would ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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