After the Sheikhs

The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies

November 2012 9781849041898 224pp
Out of print
June 2015 9781849045070 224pp


The Gulf monarchies (Saudi Arabia and its five smaller neighbours: the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain) have long been governed by highly autocratic and seemingly anachronistic regimes. Yet despite bloody conflicts on their doorsteps, fast-growing populations, and powerful modernising and globalising forces impacting on their largely conservative societies, they have demonstrated remarkable resilience. Obituaries for these traditional monarchies have frequently been penned, but even now these absolutist, almost medieval, entities still appear to pose the same conundrum as before: in the wake of the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’ and the fall of incumbent presidents in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, the apparently steadfast Gulf monarchies have, at first glance, re-affirmed their status as the Middle East’s only real bastions of stability. In this book, however, noted Gulf expert Christopher Davidson contends that the collapse of these kings, emirs, and sultans is going to happen, and was always going to. While the revolutionary movements in North Africa, Syria, and Yemen will undeniably serve as important, if indirect, catalysts for the coming upheaval, many of the same socio-economic pressures that were building up in the Arab republics are now also very much present in the Gulf monarchies. It is now no longer a matter of if but when the West’s steadfast allies fall. This is a bold claim to make but Davidson, who accurately forecast the economic turmoil that afflicted Dubai in 2009, has an enviable record in diagnosing social and political changes afoot in the region.


‘Britain and the US are uncritical friends of the hereditary Gulf rulers; but what if they are likely to collapse, as Christopher Davidson convincingly predicts? It would be folly to ignore the writing on the wall for these insatiably greedy elites; Davidson’s warning should be on the desk of every Foreign Office Minister.’ — Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group

‘An unsentimental story of hard-nosed political calculation, conspicuous consumption, opaque budgets and sovereign wealth funds […] an important account of prospects for the Gulf region.’ — The Guardian

‘Mr Davidson is one of the most knowledgeable academics writing about the region. He sets out his scenario of monarchical doom with authoritative and often riveting detail. … Plainly he is right that each of the monarchs has cause to worry.’ – The Economist

‘What is the secret of the Gulf monarchies’ survival? There are numerous reasons. The support of Western powers, oil wealth and an effective secret police are among them. But in this exceptionally argued book, Christopher Davidson concentrates on the prime reason: the Gulf monarchies enjoy considerable legitimacy from their populations.’ — Ziauddin Sardar, The Independent

‘In After the Sheikhs Christopher Davidson argues that the Gulf regimes will be gone – at least in their current form – within the next two to five years. Although the demise of the Gulf regimes has long been announced, Davidson’s audacious prediction should not be lightly dismissed. The dynamics he analyses and the facts he has gathered, based on long-term observation of the region, provide tantalising clues that profound change may indeed be at close hand.’ — Dirk Vandewalle, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College

After the Sheikhs is a book of tremendous value. It applies a rigorously constructed theoretical framework to a rich array of empirical data in order to assess the long-term survivability of some of the world’s last authoritarian holdouts. For anyone interested in understanding the post-2011 Middle East, this is essential reading.’ — Mehran Kamrava, Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University, Qatar

‘At a time when the Gulf Kingdoms arrogantly boast of having avoided the fate of their neighbours in the revolutions of the Arab Spring, this book provides a convincing counter-narrative and a powerful warning to rulers who treat their countries as personal fiefdoms.’ — Waleed Abu Alkair, Head of Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

‘Genuine political participation, social justice, freedom and human rights in the context of full citizenship have become everyday terminology in the Gulf over the last couple of years. And although the total collapse of deep-rooted monarchies is not envisioned, in the long run parliamentary constitutional monarchies could prevail in the region. Christopher Davidson has written an important book, but only time will tell whether its thesis plays out.’ — Ahmed Mansoor, human rights activist and former political prisoner, UAE

‘Davidson demonstrates his foresight and relevancy in his bold predictions of the imminent collapse of Gulf monarchies made before and during the so-called Arab Spring. This book must be read by every Western policymaker betting on the status quo in the GCC, by every pro-democracy activist struggling to realise Davidson’s predicted outcome, and by every GCC citizen dreaming of a better future but made to fear the worst if change was to come.’ — Ala’a Shehabi, writer, pro-democracy activist, founder, Bahrain Watch

‘Christopher Davidson, an astute observer of politics in the Gulf, describes in his important new book, After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies, the various ways in which the Gulf monarchies have continued to buy respite from internal and external pressures.’ — Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg

‘Hotly debated by Gulf nationals, including some in official circles …  this ambitious new book from Christopher Davidson pulls no punches.’ — International Affairs

‘…for lecturers and students in the fields of Islamic Studies, International Relations, Political Science and History, this book is required reading. …Davidson is to be commended for producing such a compact but lucid volume on an area of the world that is largely obscure to the general public in the West.’ — The Muslim World Book Review

‘Rigorous and empirically sound … highly recommended.’ — Choice



Christopher M. Davidson has long-standing research interests in the comparative politics of the Gulf states, and was previously a reader at Durham University and an assistant professor at Zayed University, UAE. His publications include Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success; Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond; After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies; and Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East.

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