Had this book existed on August 3, 1990, many would have been consulting it as a reliable guide to the country that was then in the headlines. This book still warrants attention. Crystal provides an impressive introduction to the history of Kuwait, weaving together solid narrative and a helpful analytical scheme. She places understandable emphasis on the role of oil wealth in transforming the nature of the political system, enhancing the power of the ruling family, and weakening the status of the merchant families. Some of her best pages deal with Kuwait's dilemmas in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion. She unabashedly points to the need for expanded political participation. Her fear is that Kuwait's liberation may have set the stage for a more harshly authoritarian regime in the name of protecting national security.