On the Edge of Empire

Hadhramawt, Emigration, and the Indian Ocean, 1880s-1930s

By Linda Boxberger

Subjects: Ethnography
Series: SUNY series in Near Eastern Studies
Paperback : 9780791452189, 312 pages, May 2002
Hardcover : 9780791452172, 312 pages, February 2002

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Preface: Making History in Hadhramawt



PART ONE. Aspects of Social Indentity in Hadhramawt and Abroad

1. Identity in Hadhrami Society

2. Hadhrami Emigration and the Mahjar

PART TWO. The Ordering of Life in Town and Country

3. Urban and Rural Life in the Interior

4. Urban and Rural Life on the Coast and Its Hinterland

PART THREE. Social Institutions and the Emergence of Social Criticism

5. Rites of Passage, Ceremonies, and Social Critique

6. Religious Belief, Practice, and Education: Tradition, Revival, and Critique

PART FOUR. Politics, Power, and Conflict

7. The Two Sultanates: Rivals from Inception to Union (1880s to 1918)

8. The Sultanates: Challengers and Reformers (1918 to 1936)


Appendix A
Rulers of Hadhramawt, Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Appendix B
Qu'ayti-Kathiri Agreement of 1918 (the Aden Agreement)


Selected Bibliography, English and European Languages

Selected Bibliography, Arabic Language


Explores the social and political history of the Qu`ayti and Kathiri sultanates of Hadhramawt during their gradual incorporation into the British Empire.


Offering a new perspective on a little-studied society, On the Edge of Empire examines the gradual incorporation of the Qu`ayti and Kathiri sultanates of Hadhramawt in the southern Arabian Peninsula into the British Empire during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Boxberger shows how changes in political and social institutions fostered contestation at all levels, from rivalries over territory and political power, to heated debates over religious and educational reform, to efforts to regulate wedding customs and women's dress. Based on extensive fieldwork, this ethnographic and historical narrative draws upon a wide variety of sources, including British documents and accounts; local documents, manuscripts and rare printed materials; extensive interviews with Hadhrami elders from all walks of life; and proverbs, poetry, and tribal lore. Clearly written and richly textured, this book is a welcome contribution to the study of Yemen, the historical ethnography of the Middle East, and the literature on the Islamic societies of the Indian Ocean littoral.

Linda Boxberger is an independent scholar, with extensive experience teaching and conducting research in Yemen. She received her Ph.D. in history from The University of Texas at Austin.


"Boxberger's study meticulously describes major aspects of the everyday existence and social and religious behavior of the Hadhramis and documents the severe hardships and deprivations suffered by the Hadhrami populace over the centuries." — Middle East Studies Association Bulletin

"The great virtue of Boxberger's … perspective on Hadhramawti society … is … to show precisely how widespread migration[,] and thus at least indirect participation in the colonial order can contribute to stability in the parent society." — Journal of World History

"On the Edge of Empire provides a full description of the complex society of Hadhramawt from the 1880s to the 1930s, with careful attention paid to the nuances of its changes. This is a remarkable tale based on extraordinary research utilizing difficult sources, most of which have never been used by scholars before." — William Ochsenwald, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University