The New Historians
Written by Jon Mandaville. Illustrated by Michael Grimsdale
Jon Mandaville grew up in an Aramco family in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. After finishing high school in Beirut, he studied Arabic at the University of Edinburgh and under Philip Hitti at Princeton University. Now a professor of history and Middle East studies at Portland State University, he thinks of history as more than facts alone, and likes to explore the background of historical events in “live narrative.” The author of seven earlier Aramco World articles, Mandaville traveled the length and breadth of Saudi Arabia for this issue, visiting sites and museums and talking with the kingdom’s “new historians.” Subsequently, he moved toYemen—subject of a future full issue of Aramco World where he is presently serving as the first director of the year-old American Institute for Yemeni Studies in Sanaa.
Illustrator Michael Grimsdale also grew up abroad: in Hong Kong, Malaya and South Africa. Son of a British army family, he was educated at Cheltenham and Sandhurst, and studied architecture and then illustration at St. Martins School of Art in London. After traveling in the U. S., Mexico and Australia, he returned to Britain to become one of the country’s foremost free-lance illustrators. For this Aramco World issue, Grimsdale haunted the British Museum, sketchbook in hand, and searched through dozens of reference volumes to find authentic details for his 30 impressionistic scenes of Arabia’s pre-Islamic history. Some preconceived notions fell by the wayside in the process: “Greek helmets, at that period,” he asserts, “looked very like what we always think of as Roman ones. But this is the design the Greeks wore.”