Robert Stookey, South Yemen: A Marxist Republic in Arabia (Boulder: Westview Press, 1982).
Robert Stookey’s short introduction to the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) is more suited to specialists in Yemeni politics than to the general readers to whom it is explicitly addressed. Stookey’s remarks concerning the British effort to construct governmental institutions upon the presumed authority of tribal families underscore a key source of political instability in the countryside during southern Yemen’s colonial period. His observations on the social aspects of urban growth around Aden after 1840 suggest new ways of conceptualizing changes in the political structure of the colony itself. And his comments regarding the differential impact that new forms of economic organization and transportation had on different parts of the country provide the foundations for a nuanced account of the effects of British rule on local society.
Many readers, though, will find the book rather hard to follow. The ethnographic and historical material outlined in the first two chapters is primarily concerned with the ten centuries that preceded the British occupation of Aden in 1838, and is never incorporated into the analysis of later events. Background information necessary for an understanding of the independence struggle is presented in a sketchy and piecemeal fashion. Nowhere does the author attempt to tie these disparate remarks into a coherent account of the anti-colonial movement. Stookey’s description of the critical internal political shifts that occurred between March 1968 and April 1980 takes up barely five pages and is kept strictly insulated from his equally cursory surveys of the country’s agricultural and industrial policies and its diplomatic relations with neighboring states.