Kuwait: Social Change in Historical Perspective

By Jacqueline S. Ismael | Go to book overview

2

British Gulf Policy and Kuwait in the Nineteenth Century

IN HIS DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF KUWAIT to 1800, Abu Hakima identified "the confused internal state and consequent lack of centralised power in Persia, Ottoman ' Iraq and Arabia" 1 as one of the main factors allowing the establishment of the Utub at Kuwait. Throughout the eighteenth century, the main external impact on Kuwait was tribal, not state. By the nineteenth century, however, this was rapidly changing, and Kuwait was increasingly drawn into the vortex of the region's international politics. The impact of this on Kuwait will be examined in terms of the growth of British imperialism in the Gulf.


BRITAIN IN THE ARAB GULF

Britain's role in the Gulf was initiated in the seventeenth century through the activities of the British East India Company. Incorporated on the last day of 1600 as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies," 2 between 1616 and 1617 the company established the first British Factories in Persia, and by 1623 had factories in the Persian ports of Jask and Bandar Abbas.

Prior to the arrival of the British, the Portuguese were the only European nation operating in the Gulf. Having established themselves there in 1507, by the time of the arrival of the British, the Portuguese had fortified stations at Hormuz (commanding the eastern entrance into the Gulf), Bahrein, Qishm, and Musqat, and enjoyed a virtual monopoly on European trade with the region. From the arrival of the British there was

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