Kuwait was founded in 1613 AD as a fishing village known as Grane (Kureyn). The region soon came under the rule of the Bani Khalid Emirate
in 1670 after the expulsion of the Ottomans from Eastern Arabia (Lahsa Eyalet
) by Barrack bin Ghurayr, Emir of the Bani Khalid, who successfully besieged the Ottoman governor Umar Pasha who surrendered and gave up his rule as the fourth Ottoman governor of al-Hasa.
The families of the Bani Utbah
finally arrived in Kuwait in 1713 AD and settled after receiving permission from the Emir of al-Hasa Sa'dun bin Muhammad who ruled from 1691–1722 AD. The Utubs didn't immediately settle in Kuwait however, they roamed for half a century before finally settling. They first left the region of central Arabia and settled themselves in what is now Qatar
, after a quarrel between them and some of the inhabitants of the region they departed and settled near Umm Qasr
in December of 1701 AD. living as brigands, raiding passing caravans and levying taxes over the shipping of the Shatt al-Arab
Due to these practices, they were driven out of the area by the Ottoman Mutasallim of Basra
and later lived in Sabiyya an area bordering the north of Kuwait Bay, until finally requesting permission from the Bani Khalid to settle in Kuwait which was then under the rule of the Emir of al-Hasa who himself was of the Bani Khalid.
In 1718, the head of each family in the town of Kuwait gathered and chose Sabah I bin Jaber
as the Sheikh of Kuwait becoming a governor of sorts underneath the Emir of Al Hasa. During this time as well, the power in governance was split between the Al Sabah, Al Khalifa, and Al Jalahma families in which the Al Sabah will have control over the reins of power whereas the Al Khalifa were in charge of trade and the flow of money, and the Jalahma would be in charge over work in the sea.
In 1752, Kuwait became independent after an agreement between the Sheikh of Kuwait and the Emir of Al Hasa in which Al Hasa recognised Sabah I bin Jaber
's independent rule over Kuwait and in exchange Kuwait would not ally itself or support the enemies of Al Hasa or interfere in the internal affairs of Al Hasa in any way.
Map of kuwait in 1803
In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial centre for the transit of goods between India
By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo
During the Persian siege of Basra in 1775–1779, Iraqi merchants
took refuge in Kuwait and were partly instrumental in the expansion of Kuwait's boat-building and trading activities.
As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed.
Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna
were diverted to Kuwait. The English Factory
was diverted to Kuwait in 1792, which consequently expanded Kuwait's resources beyond fishing and pearling.
The English Factory secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India
and the east coasts of Africa
This allowed Kuwaiti vessels to venture all the way to the pearling banks of Sri Lanka
and trade goods with India and East Africa
Kuwait was also the center for all caravans
carrying goods between Basra, Baghdad and Aleppo during 1775–1779.
Kuwait's strategic location and regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity
in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century.
Kuwait became wealthy due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century.
In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government
Economic prosperity in the late 18th century attracted many immigrants from Iran
By 1800, it was estimated that Kuwait's sea trade reached 16 million Bombay rupees, a substantial amount at that time.
Kuwait's pre-oil population was ethnically diverse.
The population consisted of Arabs
Kuwait was the center of boat building
in the Persian Gulf
region in the nineteenth century until the early twentieth century.
Ship vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of international trade between the trade ports of India, East Africa, and Red Sea
Boats made in Kuwait were capable of sailing up to China
Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean
for quality and design.
Kuwaitis also developed a reputation as the best sailors
in the Persian Gulf.
Kuwait was divided into three areas: Sharq
Sharq and Jibla were the most populated areas.
Sharq was mostly inhabited by Persians (Ajam)
Jibla was inhabited by immigrants from Saudi Arabia, Iraq
Mirgab was lightly populated by butchers.
Kuwait was a central part of the trade in frankincense
from Oman, textiles
, and Indian spices
, all destined for lucrative European markets.
Kuwait was also significant in the horse trade
horses were regularly shipped by the way of sailing boats from Kuwait.
In the mid 19th century, it was estimated that Kuwait was exporting an average of 800 horses to India annually.
In the early 20th century, Kuwait was dubbed the "Marsielles
of the Gulf" because its economic vitality attracted a large variety of people.
In a good year, Kuwait's annual revenue actually came up to 100,000 riyals,
the governor of Basra considered Kuwait's annual revenue an astounding figure.
A Western author's account of Kuwait in 1905:
Kuwait was the Marseilles of the Persian Gulf. Its population was good natured, mixed, and vicious. As it was the outlet from the north to the Gulf and hence to the Indies, merchants
, Persians, Syrians
from Aleppo and Damascus
, Armenians, Turks
and Jews, traders from all the East
, and some Europeans
came to Kuwait. From Kuwait, the caravans set out for Central Arabia and for Syria. H. C. Armstrong, Lord of Arabia
In the first decades of the twentieth century, Kuwait had a well-established elite: wealthy trading families who were linked by marriage and shared economic interests.
The elite were long-settled, urban, Sunni families, the majority of which claim descent from the original 30 Bani Utubi families.
The wealthiest families were trade merchants who acquired their wealth from long-distance commerce, shipbuilding and pearling.
They were a cosmopolitan elite, they traveled extensively to India, Africa and Europe.
The elite educated their sons abroad more than other Gulf Arab elite.
Western visitors noted that the Kuwaiti elite used European office systems, typewriters
and followed European culture
The richest families were involved in general trade.
The merchant families of Al-Ghanim and Al-Hamad were estimated to be worth millions before the 1940s.
List of Rulers
Rulers of Kuwait (1752–1961)
Collapse of economy
A piece of clothing used by Kuwaiti divers searching for pearls
Marine Museum in Kuwait City
The Great Depression
negatively impacted Kuwait's economy starting in the late 1920s.
International trading was one of Kuwait's main sources of income before oil.
Kuwaiti merchants were mostly intermediary merchants.
As a result of European decline of demand for goods from India and Africa, the economy of Kuwait suffered. The decline in international trade resulted in an increase in gold smuggling by Kuwaiti ships to India.
Some Kuwaiti merchant families became rich due to gold smuggling to India.
Kuwait's pearling industry also collapsed as a result of the worldwide economic depression.
At its height, Kuwait's pearling industry led the world's luxury market, regularly sending out between 750 and 800 ship vessels to meet the European elite's need for luxuries pearls.
During the economic depression, luxuries like pearls were in little demand.
The Japanese invention of cultured pearls
also contributed to the collapse of Kuwait's pearling industry.
Following the Kuwait–Najd War
of 1919–1920, Ibn Saud
imposed a tight trade blockade against Kuwait from the years 1923 until 1937.
The goal of the Saudi economic and military attacks on Kuwait was to annex as much of Kuwait's territory as possible.
At the Uqair conference
in 1922, the boundaries of Kuwait and Najd were set.
Kuwait had no representative at the Uqair conference.
After the Uqair conference, Kuwait was still subjected to a Saudi economic blockade and intermittent Saudi raiding
In 1937, Freya Stark
wrote about the extent of poverty in Kuwait at the time:
Poverty has settled in Kuwait more heavily since my last visit five years ago, both by sea, where the pearl trade continues to decline, and by land, where the blockade established by Saudi Arabia now harms the merchants.
Some prominent merchant families left Kuwait in the early 1930s due to the prevalence of economic hardship. At the time of the discovery of oil in 1937, most of Kuwait's inhabitants were impoverished.
Mubarak the Great
Mubarak al-Sabah 1903
Mubarak's seizure of the throne via murder left his brother's former allies as a threat to his rule, especially as his opponents gained the backing of the Ottomans.
In July, Mubarak invited the British to deploy gunboats
along the Kuwaiti coast. Britain saw Mubarak's desire for an alliance as an opportunity to counteract German influence in the region and so agreed.
This led to what is known as the First Kuwaiti Crisis
, in which the Ottomans demanded that the British stop interfering within what they believed to be was their sphere of influence. In the end, the Ottoman Empire backed down, rather than go to war.
In January 1899, Mubarak signed an agreement with the British which pledged that Kuwait would never cede any territory nor receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent. In essence, this policy gave Britain control of Kuwait's foreign policy.
The treaty also gave Britain responsibility for Kuwait's national security. In return, Britain agreed to grant an annual subsidy of 15,000 Indian rupees
(£1,500) to the ruling family. In 1911, Mubarak raised taxes. Therefore, three wealthy business men Ibrahim Al-Mudhaf
, Helal Al-Mutairi
, and Shamlan Ali bin Saif Al-Roumi
(brother of Hussain Ali bin Saif Al-Roumi), led a protest against Mubarak by making Bahrain
their main trade point, which negatively affected the Kuwaiti economy. However, Mubarak went to Bahrain and apologised for raising taxes and the three business men returned to Kuwait. In 1915, Mubarak the Great died and was succeeded by his son Jaber II Al-Sabah
, who reigned for just over one year until his death in early 1917. His brother Sheikh Salim Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah
Map with red circle and green circle boundaries according to the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913
Despite the Kuwaiti government's desire to either be independent or under British protection, in the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913
, the British concurred with the Ottoman Empire in defining Kuwait as an autonomous caza
of the Ottoman Empire and that the Shaikhs of Kuwait were independent leaders, as well asqaimmaqams
(provincial sub-governors) of the Ottoman government. The independence of Kuwait was also highlighted by the statement made by Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah
to the German team who requested an audience with him over the extension of the Berlin-Baghdad railway to Kuwait in which Mubarak said that he would not sell or rent any piece of his land to a foreigner, and that he did not acknowledge the authority of the Ottomans over Kuwait.
The convention ruled that Shaikh Mubarak had independent authority over an area extending out to a radius of 80 km, from the capital. This region was marked by a red circle and included the islands of Auhah
, Failaka, Kubbar
. A green circle designated an area extending out an additional 100 km, in radius, within which the qaimmaqam
was authorised to collect tribute
and taxes from the natives.
History as a Protected State of Britain
Kuwait–Najd War (1919–1920)
The Kuwait–Najd War erupted in the Aftermath of World War I
, when the Ottoman Empire
was defeated and the British invalidated the Anglo-Ottoman Convention, declaring Kuwait to be an "independent sheikhdom under British protectorate". The power vacuum, left by the fall of the Ottomans, sharpened the conflict between Kuwait and Najd
). The war resulted in sporadic border clashes throughout 1919–1920. Several hundreds of Kuwaitis died.
The border of the Najd and Kuwait was finally established by the Uqair Protocol of 1922
. Kuwait was not permitted any role in the Uqair agreement, the British and Al Saud decided modern-day Kuwait's borders. After the Uqair agreement, relations between Kuwait and Najd remained hostile.
Battle of Jahra
A force of 4000 Saudi Ikhwan, led by Faisal Al-Dawish
, attacked the Kuwait Red Fort
at Al-Jahra, defended by 2000 Kuwaiti men. The Kuwaitis were largely outnumbered by the Ikhwan of Najd.
The Uqair protocol
In response to the various Bedouin raids, the British High Commissioner in Baghdad, Sir Percy Cox
, imposed the Uqair Protocol of 1922
which defined the boundaries between Iraq, Kuwait and Nejd. On 1 April 1923, Shaikh Ahmad al-Sabah
wrote the British Political Agent in Kuwait, Major John More
, "I still do not know what the border between Iraq and Kuwait is, I shall be glad if you will kindly give me this information." More, upon learning that al-Sabah claimed the outer green line of the Anglo-Ottoman Convention (4 April), would relay the information to Sir Percy.
On 19 April, Sir Percy stated that the British government recognised the outer line of the Convention as the border between Iraq and Kuwait. This decision limited Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf at 58 km of mostly marshy and swampy coastline. As this would make it difficult for Iraq to become a naval power (the territory did not include any deepwater harbours), the Iraqi King Faisal I
(whom the British installed as a puppet king in Iraq) did not agree to the plan. However, as his country was under British mandate, he had little say in the matter. Iraq and Kuwait would formally ratify the border in August. The border was re-recognised in 1932.
In 1913, Kuwait was recognised as a separate province from Basra Vilayet and given autonomy under Ottoman suzerainty
in the draft Anglo-Ottoman Convention, however this was not signed before the outbreak of the first World War. The border was revisited by a memorandum sent by the British high commissioner for Iraq in 1923, which became the basis for Kuwait's northern border. In Iraq's 1932 application to the League of Nations it included information about its borders, including its border with Kuwait, where it accepted the boundary established in 1923.
The 1920s and 1930s saw the collapse of the pearl fishery and with it Kuwait's economy. This is attributed to the invention of the artificial cultivation of pearls.
The discovery of oil in Kuwait, in 1938, revolutionised the sheikdom's economy and made it a valuable asset to Britain. In 1941 on the same day as the German invasion of the USSR (22 June) the British took total control over Iraq and Kuwait. (The British and Soviets would invade the neighbouring Iran in September of that year).
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Last edited on 29 April 2021, at 17:51
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