Richard H. Sanger, 74, a retired Foreign Service officer and author who was an authority on the Middle East, died of congestive heart failure March 20 at the home of a relative in Solana Beach, Calif.

After joining the Foreign Service in 1946, he served in Beirut, Lebanon, and three years as deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, before returning here in 1958.

Mr. Sanger worked as public affairs adviser in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, as officer in charge of Arabian Peninsula Affairs, and as director of intelligence and research for the Near East and Africa before retiring in 1965.

He also had lectured at the Foreign Service Institute, where he taught courses on counterinsurgency and Middle East topics. He received the State Department's Superior Service Award.

His books included "Where the Jordan Flows," "Insurgent Era," and "The Arabian Peninsula," which Washington Post reviewer Chalmers Roberts said was a "sparkling book that adroitly combines history, geography, customs and mores, and finally statecraft."

Mr. Sanger was a member of the board of governors of the Middle East Institute. He also belonged to the Metropolitan, Chevy Chase, and Harvard clubs and to DACOR. He was a fellow of the Explorers Club.

His explorations began long before he joined the federal government. After graduation from Harvard College, he spent two years in South America and Afica. He traveled across the Andes and joined an expedition that went from the headwaters of the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean. Mr. Sanger also studied coffee production in Ethiopia.

He returned to Harvard and earned a master's degree in business administration. While there he met his future wife, Marion, who was a student at Wellesley College.

After their marriage in 1931, they journeyed to the Soviet Union. At that time Stalin was forcing the peasants, who composed almost 90 percent of the country's population, onto collective and state farms, and had initiated the finst Five-Year Plan for the purpose of rapid industrialization.

The Sangers worked first in a publishing house in Moscow, where they learned Russian. Then they were assigned to a factory in the Caucasus and later to a state farm near Moscow. They had "volunteer" jobs for Sunday, the only day off in the Soviet work schedule. Mr. Sanger worked on the construction of the Moscow subway.

After a year, they returned to this country. Mr. Sanger took a job as a secretary on the Republican National Committee.

He later was a Commerce Department analyst and news service reporter. During World War II, he worked for the board of economic warfare and the foreign economic adminstration in London. He joined the State Department in 1944 and became a Foreign Service officer two years later.

Mr. Sanger was a native of Sanger field, N.Y.

In addition to his wife, of the home in Bethesda, he is survived by a son, Richard H. Jr., of Winston Salem, N.C.; two daughters, Patience Bender, of Damascus, and Cary Breining, of O'Fallon, Mo.; a sister, Mary Simonds, of Highstown, N.J., and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Parkinson's Deisease Association in New York or the Arthritis Fund.