Making excellent use of a variety of public and private materials, Chad H. Parker's Making the Desert Modern dissects the operations of the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) during the four decades of its exclusive control of the Saudi oil industry. On one level, Aramco functioned like any private profit-driven entity, seeking from the start of its concession in 1933 to create the best possible environment for its operations. Among the challenges it faced along the way were the nature of Saudi society and, more specifically, the absolute power of the Saudi monarchy. Parker effectively demonstrates that because Aramco often constituted the first point of contact between Saudi rulers and the United States and because it ultimately eclipsed the U.S. government “as the principal...

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