History of Saudi Arabia

The Oil Embargo of 1973, the terrorist attacks against the US of September 11, 2001, and the Arab Spring of 2011 are just a few events that highlight the importance of the Middle East as both a political and economic player in the global village. Media coverage of these events often portrays the region as one replete with militant religious fundamentalists, political tyrants, and huge disparities of wealth based on oil. This paper uncovers the ways in which religion was framed by the media for British readers from the beginning of the birth of one Middle Eastern country – Saudi Arabia, which was recognized globally as a nation in 1932.

Our conceptual framework is grounded in the idea that reporters comprise an interpretative community (Zelizer, 1993). We assume that reporters covering the region in the late 1920s and early 1930s understood the importance of Islam – or their informants understood this – to those who were living through the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the redrawing of national boundaries. As interpretative communities, other reporters will follow the lead of those who first cover the area, maintaining a consistent storyline.1 If this is true, early reports will shape subsequent news. If early reports point to religious concerns, we assume that this framing will be used in subsequent reporting. This in turn could have developed an agenda for Saudi Arabian politics in the minds of British readers (Morey & Yaqin, 2011), supporting the idea that the media provide readers a sense of reality for issues with which they have little or no experiential knowledge (Gamson, 1992). We begin with a brief history of Saudi Arabia and British imperialist policy to provide a larger context for our study before turning to an analysis of British press coverage of Saudi Arabia between 1927 and 1937.