"A British Lake": Kuwait and the 1913 Anglo-Ottoman Convention Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Tyler, Ethan
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • The 1913 Anglo-Ottoman Convention is remembered mostly for its direct political effects in Kuwait by solidifying Kuwaiti autonomy and the international rights of Britain in Kuwait. However, this agreement contains many provisions on trade, international boundaries, oil concessions, and the Baghdad Railway that solidify the wider British strategic interests at the time. British involvement in the Persian Gulf was not recent or limited to Kuwait. The British Persian Gulf Residency based in Bushire along the coast of modern day Iran was the hub of British activity in the Persian Gulf for most diplomatic, economic, and military affairs under the British Indian Government (hereafter referred to as the British Raj). From the 1700’s onward, British naval presence in the Gulf continuously grew through the form of protecting trade and safeguarding the burgeoning East India Company’s colonial holdings. However, Britain took no serious diplomatic or economic interest in the Persian Gulf until the mid-1800’s, growing rapidly in the 1880’s and 1890’s into the turn of the century. This interest was formed by crafting various treaties with local rulers to establish certain rules for British economic activity and hold that these rules would be enforced. These treaties mostly took the form of controlling piracy and allowing port access with polities such as the Trucial States, Bahrain, and Muscat. I argue that the 1913 Convention, happening on the eve of the outbreak of war, was the culmination of British policy in the Gulf which centered on British economic and political gain by working to create a status quo which supported the British system of imperial management. Early commercial and political treaties within the Gulf dealt with access to and security of India. After the of succession of Mubarak al-Sabah as Sheikh of Kuwait in 1896, British actions within the Gulf centering on Kuwait were made to keep Kuwait autonomous within the Ottoman Empire. British support of Mubarak defended Kuwait from the Ottomans and the Ottoman-backed Emirate of Ha’il, eventually establishing autonomy. The British upheld imperial infrastructure as manifestations of political strategy in securing British strategic and economic interests in the Gulf while defending these interests against perceived threats from the Germans or Ottomans in the form of the Baghdad Railway. The 1913 Anglo-Ottoman Convention was the culmination of the British status quo and secured British interests. The formation of the Persian Gulf as a “British lake” within the Residency’s view came from negotiated imperial development coupled with the political patronage of Kuwait and other local powers.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Funding: David Anthony Kusa Undergraduate Student Memorial Award
  • Shields, Sarah
  • Bachelor of Arts
Academic concentration
  • History
Honors level
  • Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017
  • English

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