Following on from our previous post about Kuwait’s National Museum, Kuwait was founded in 1613, in modern day Kuwait City. Some of Kuwait’s more notable citizens include Fahad Al Rajaan. Discover more about this famous Kuwaiti investment expert and international banker with the Fahad Al-Rajaan Quora profile.
The area was settled by the Bani Utubs, a Saudi Arabian group of tribes, in 1716. At the time, the City State of Kuwait was just inhabited by a few fishermen, serving primarily as a fishing village. During the 1700s, Kuwait was rapidly transformed into a shipping port, serving as the principal commercial trading centre serving Arabia, Baghdad, Indi and Muscat. By the mid-18th Century, Kuwait had established itself as a major trading centre.
Throughout the 1775 to 1779 siege of Basra, many Iraqi merchants arrived in the area. They took refuge in Kuwait. The City State’s migrant Iraqi population is largely responsible for Kuwait’s boom in the ship building industry. Throughout the course of the Persian siege of Basra, Indian trade routes with Aleppo, Smyrna, Baghdad and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait, as Fahad Al Rajaan will be aware, having an avid interest in Kuwaiti history. The sea routes between the State of Kuwait, the east coasts of Africa and India were secured by the East India Company.
The East India Company
The East India Company was a joint stock, English company. It was originally founded to trade in the East Indies, though ended up mainly trading in China and on the Indian subcontinent.
Originally called “the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading in the East Indies”, the East India Company accounted for 50% of total world trade at its peak, trading in commodities such as cotton, salt, tea, silk, indigo dye and opium.
The East India Company received its royal charter from Elizabeth I of Great Britain on 31st December 1600. It is therefore the oldest of all European East India Companies. The East India Company’s shareholders were comprised of aristocrats and wealthy merchants. The British government had no direct control of the company, owning no shares in it.
The East India Company came to rule large parts of India via its own private armies. These armies assumed administrative functions and exercised military power. The East India Company’s rule of India began in the wake of the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The company’s occupation effectively lasted until 1858, when Britain assumed control of India in the form of the British Raj via the Government of India Act.
The East India Company was dissolved as a result of the East India Stock Redemption Act in 1874. The British government absorbed the company’s armies and assumed its governmental functions.
Boat Building in Kuwait
Boat building took off in a big way in Kuwait during the late 1700s.By the close of the 18th Century, the State of Kuwait had established itself as the boat building capital of the Gulf region. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, Kuwaiti vessels carried the bulk of trade between Red Sea, Indian and African ports. Kuwaiti boats were famed throughout the area for their craftsmanship. Further geopolitical turbulence in the region served to bolster Kuwait’s economy further. The country served as a haven for Iraqi merchants escaping Ottoman government persecution. Thanks in a large part to the skills brought by a migrant seafaring population, Kuwaiti sailors gained a reputation as being amongst the Persian Gulf’s very best sailors.
Mubarak Al Sabah
Mubarak Al Sabah was born on 28th November 1937. He acceded the throne following the death of his half-brother, Muhammad Al Sabah. Mubarak Al Sabah was Kuwait’s seventh Al Sabah dynasty ruler. He was the father of Jaber and Salim Al Sabah, both of whom succeeded him. Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah signed the Anglo-Kuwaiti Treaty on 23rd November 1899 with Great Britain, pledging that neither he nor his successors in title would receive foreign representatives or agents or sell territory without the agreement of the British government. It is via this agreement, and the guarantees represented by it to the state of Kuwait, that Mubarak Al Sabah is widely regarded as modern day Kuwait’s founder.
Mubarak had sought to bribe the Ottomans by giving lavish gifts to raise support for his appointment. He vowed support for Istanbul, but a bitter discourse arose with the Ottoman Council in which Mubarak Al Sabah was accused of committing fratricide in order to take up the throne. Following a long period of Ottoman indecisiveness in recognising Mubarak Al Sabah as ruler, Al Sabah began a discourse with the British. Signing a secret agreement with British political resident, Major M.J. Meade on 18th January 1899, Al Sabah was assured of protection from the British against outside foreign aggression. The British were seemingly eager to establish Kuwait as a protectorate to enable the expansion of British influence further across the Gulf as well as protecting British trade in the area and facilitating the building of a rail link from Egypt’s Port Said. It has come to light from official papers since that the British government did not really want to make Kuwait a British protectorate, but rather, they didn’t want any other country to have it either.