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SINCE ANTIQUITY the natural pearls of the Gulf have been famed as the finest, most lustrous and most plentiful that the world can offer. From the beginnings of trade until the 1930s, these pearls were a major product of the Gulf's coastal peoples. Latterly, from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, rising international demand turned pearling into their economic mainstay. By this time pearls were fished in their millions, and pearling became the pillar of the regional economy, dominating the lives, health and expectations of entire shaikhdoms. The influx of people and wealth to the coast permanently transformed the Gulf, providing the manpower and capital to germinate and nurture the city-states - notably Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah - which endure there today. Despite its formative role, there has until now been no book taking the entire history of pearling as its subject. Dr Carter's ground-breaking work traces its evolution on both the Arabian and the Persian sides of the Gulf, and explores the role it played in shaping the political, social and urban configuration that we see in the region today. It shows the extent to which the Gulf economy became dependent on a single commodity, and how, in that respect, pearling resembled the oil industry that would replace it. Lavishly illustrated, this book covers in unprecedented detail the history, development, conduct, florescence and catastrophic collapse of the industry in the early 20th century. It will fascinate not only those wishing to understand the growth and conduct of the pearl fishery, but also those interested in the history of the region and the origins of the Gulf states, and in the colourful story of the global taste for one of mankind's most highly prized precious stones.