A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fred Halliday, 1946-2010

Fred Halliday, one of Britain's most prominent authorities on the Gulf and the Mideast generally, has died of cancer at age 64. The Guardian's obituary says much of what needs to be said. I didn't really know him except through his books and one or two occasions when we did joint interviews on the phone during the first Gulf War, he in the UK, I in the US, and the interviewer wherever. I don't think I ever met him in person, though I may be forgetting something.

Halliday's early works on the Gulf, such as Arabia without Sultans and Iran: Dictatorship and Development, were critiques from the left of traditional Arab monarchies and of the West's role in the region. Reading them today out of context, you might picture Halliday as a sort of looking-glass version of J.B. Kelly, a well-informed polemicist only from the anti-imperial rather than the imperial school. (He and Kelly were both transplants: Kelly from New Zealand, Halliday from Ireland.) But Halliday was never a simple ideologue. He supported the first Gulf War against Iraq; he backed US intervention in Afghanistan. His critiques were always informed by profound knowledge of the region and its languages. Even when one disagreed with him, it was clear he was making a solid contribution to the field. RIP Fred Halliday.

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