Tom Little: South Arabia. Pall Mall. 35s.

Kennedy Trevaskis: Shades of Amber. Hutchinson. 50s.

Dana Adams Schmidt: Yemen: the Unknown War. Bodley Head. 45s.

For anyone in danger of forgetting what a mindless and vicious system of oppression the British were capable of maintaining right into the late 1960s, the Little and Trevaskis books should be required reading. Trevaskis, who was the chief architect of the South Arabian Federation, seems to have designed his book almost solely in order to cover his own tracks. Numerous important events are undated. Having blundered about in the area for more than a decade, Trevaskis attempts to pre-empt criticism with the remark (reprinted as the caption to a photograph of the author sucking his pipe) that: ‘At least I had learned that only the supremely arrogant would claim to know all the answers.’ Obviously Trevaskis knew none—and little surprise, by the author’s account of his own thought process: ‘It was while I was wondering whether the roots of tribal discontent might not be found in the oligarchic character of South Arabian chiefly rule . . . ’ Sometimes even the author met his match at political inanity: ‘I had an opportunity of putting my ideas to Hopkinson [a Tory minister] during his visit, and found him surprisingly receptive to the need for what he called a “theme”,agreeing that it should be independence with the creation of a South Arabian Jordan as our objective.’ It is frightening and revolting to read a book like this. There is not one indication of, for example, comparative British expenditure on military installations and education. Not even a glimmer of awareness of the atrocious effects of colonialism on the South Yemeni people. Not a line to indicate that there could be such a thing as a progressive popular regime: the forces which drove the British out are simply described as ‘Anarchy’.

Tom Little puts considerably more order into his account of the Federation’s history, and there is an appraisal of the local political forces. Little points out the NLF’s extraordinary success in the Radfan campaign both militarily and in avoiding political detection by the British, which gave them greater freedom of action than the FLOSY (even though for some time FLOSY was tolerated while the NLF was banned). There is a relatively appreciative summing up of the new NLF regime. But Little’s book, too, is disappointing, even though vastly superior to Trevaskis’. Both structure their accounts in an imperialist optic. Like the British Press, they cut out with independence. During the period of British rule they ignore the effects of colonial oppression; after the victory of the liberation struggle they tend to regard the area as politically uninteresting. Yet the NLF forced the British out of Aden and the Federation in exemplary fashion: how did they do it?

Dana Adams Schmidt is an extremely well-informed American correspondent with royalist sympathies. His book is unsurpassed and unsurpassable for hard facts, including a brilliant account of the original 1962 revolution and a thorough round-up of the military situation up to January 1968. Schmidt has been almost everywhere in the Yemen and met almost everybody of note on both sides—though he has spent more time with the royalists. Fortunately this does not prevent him from recounting episodes such as the first attempt to bombard Sana, which was directed by a group of British ‘mercenaries’. When travelling through the royalist-held area of Yemen early last year, Eric Rouleau of Le Monde encountered a large number of British technicians, mainly running the radio network. Many of these appeared to have been seconded through dummy front organizations by the British government. Two of the characters named by Schmidt would seem to have been almost official—one of them being the aide-de-camp to the British High Commissioner in Aden! The NLF victory in South Yemen has changed events to the North. In recent months the Republican forces have received a powerful boost from the NLF in Aden, whose political expertise in organizing popular militias seems to have more than compensated for the departure of the UAR army. Schmidt’s book is very much to be recommended as a piece of thorough journalism—though it is strange that he never mentions the pioneering work on modern Yemen: Mohamed Said El Attar’s Le Sous-Développement Économique et Social du Yémen: Perspectives de la Révolution Yéménite, which remains the fundamental background text on the area.