Home > News and media > Publications > Publications archive > 2008 > King Hussein of Jordan: a political life


King Hussein of Jordan: a political life

Page Contents >

Nigel Ashton
Yale University Press (October 2008)

Cover of King Hussein of Jordan: a political lifeA towering figure in the history of Jordan, King Hussein reigned for nearly half a century until his death in 1999. In this fascinating biography, Nigel Ashton recounts the eventful life of the king who not only survived but flourished amidst crisis after crisis as ruler of a poor desert nation surrounded by powerful and hostile neighbors. Hussein skillfully navigated complicated relationships with his fellow Arab leaders, the new bordering state of Israel, masses of dispossessed Palestinians within his kingdom, every US president from Eisenhower to Clinton, and every British prime minister from Churchill to Blair. This book illuminates the private man, his key relationships, and his achievements and disappointments as a central player in the tough world of Middle Eastern politics.

Ashton has had unique access to King Hussein's private papers, including his secret correspondence with US, British, and Israeli leaders, and he has also conducted numerous interviews with members of Hussein's circle and immediate family. The resulting book brings new depth to our understanding of the popular and canny king while also providing new information about the wars of 1967 and 1973, President Reagan's role in the Iran-Contra affair, the evolution of the Middle East peace process, and much more.

Dr Nigel Ashton is a senior lecturer in the Department of International History at LSE. 

A book launch will be held at LSE on Tuesday 28 October. Nigel Ashton will also be speaking about the book at numerous venues in the US including Columbia, NYU, George Washington University, the Woodrow Wilson Centre and the Brooking Institution.


'It is for this reason that these two excellent biographies are so worthwhile. Lion of Jordan, by Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, and King Hussein of Jordan, by Nigel Ashton, a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science, provide insight not only into the king but into the conflicts that ravaged the region during his lifetime. Shlaim has a particularly valuable account of Hussein's relations with Israel and the Palestinians, while Ashton is very interesting on Hussein's relations with Iraq and the wider Arab world.'
Patrick Cockburn, New York Times -

'In this respectful and measured scholarly evaluation, Ashton (Kennedy, Macmillan and the Cold War) builds on unprecedented access to the late king's entire correspondence and more than two dozen interviews to lend valuable insight into how Hussein's shrewdness and empathy kept him politically (and literally) alive as well as casting light on many a foreign policy enigma - notably a confirmation that Ronald Reagan personally authorized what became the Iran-Contra scandal. While Hussein's uneasy alliance with the socialist brand of Arab nationalism under Egypt's Nasser led him into "the greatest calamity of his reign," the 1967 Six-Day War with Israel, he remained "ever alert to the shifting power dynamics of the Arab world," often maintaining a precarious balance between the Western powers, the Arab states and Israel while wielding influence disproportionate to Jordan's relatively modest assets. Ashton reveals Hussein's longstanding covert contact with Israel and his clandestine communications with Israelis in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war to suggest the possibilities and missed opportunities (including by the US) for a peaceful settlement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - just one reason this book feels so timely and relevant. (Sept.)
US Publishers Weekly