Monday, May 21, 2007

History of Kuwait

History of Kuwait. This is a short essay on the history of the small Middle East nation of Kuwait. It is probably best known as the starting place of the (First?) Persian Gulf War in 1991.

The Encyclop√¶dia Britannica notes, "The origin of the city of Kuwait—and of the State of Kuwait—is usually placed at about the beginning of the 18th century, when the Banu (Bani) 'Utub, a group of families of the 'Anizah tribe in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, migrated to the area that is now Kuwait. The foundation of the autonomous sheikhdom of Kuwait dates from 1756, when the settlers decided to appoint a sheikh from the Sabah family (Al Sabah). During the 19th century, Kuwait developed as a thriving, independent trading community. Toward the end of the century, one ruler, 'Abd Allah II (reigned 1866–92), began to move Kuwait closer to the Ottoman Empire, although he never placed his country under Ottoman rule. This trend was reversed with the accession of Mubarak the Great, who came to power by assassinating his brother 'Abd Allah—an act of uncustomary political violence in Kuwait. Ottoman threats to annex Kuwait prompted Mubarak to cultivate a close relationship with Britain. An 1899 treaty basically granted Britain control of Kuwait's foreign affairs. Following the outbreak of World War I (1914–18), Kuwait became a British protectorate."

From the site:

Archaeological finds on Failaka, the largest of Kuwait’s nine islands, suggests it was a trading post at the time of the ancient Sumerians. Failaka appears to have continued to serve as a market for approximately 2,000 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks. Despite its long history as a market and sanctuary for traders, Failaka appears to have been abandoned as a permanent settlement in the 1st century A.D. Kuwait's modern history began in the 18th century with the founding of the city of Kuwait by the Uteiba, a subsection of the Anaiza tribe, who are believed to have traveled north from Qatar.

Threatened in the 19th century by the Ottoman Turks and various powerful Arabian Peninsula groups, Kuwait sought the same treaty relationship Britain had already signed with the Trucial States (UAE) and Bahrain. In January 1899, the ruler Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah --"the Great"-- signed an agreement with the British Government that pledged himself and his successors neither to cede any territory, nor to receive agents or representatives of any foreign power without the British Government's consent, in exchange for protection and an annual subsidy. When Mubarak died in 1915, the population of Kuwait of about 35,000 was heavily dependent on shipbuilding (using wood imported from India) and pearl diving.

Mubarak was succeeded as ruler by his sons Jabir (1915-17) and Salim (1917-21). Kuwait’s subsequent rulers have descended from these two brothers. Sheikh Ahmed al-Jabir Al Sabah ruled Kuwait from 1921 until his death in 1950, a period in which oil was discovered and in which the government attempted to establish the first internationally recognized boundaries; the 1922 Treaty of Uqair set Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia and also established the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia Neutral Zone, an area of about 5,180 sq. km. (2,000 sq. mi.) adjoining Kuwait's southern border.

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