KUWAIT& BRITAIN | Kuwait | Unrest



Prepared By The Centre For Research and Studies on Kuwait

Kuwait- 2007

Images References:
* Al-Hijji, Yacoub. Old Kuwait: Memories, in Photographs, Centre for Research and Studies on Kuwait, 2004. * Ali Rai's Collection, Ministry of Information Archive, Kuwait News Agency Archives. * Facey, William and Gillian Grant. Kuwait by the First Photographers, London,1998. * Facey, William. Kuwait and Britain: Two Centuries of Friendship, British Council, Kuwait, 1995. * Fraster, Lovat. India Under Curzon and After, London, 1911. * Slot, B J. The Origins of Kuwait, Kuwait, 1998.


Just rule and loyalty to faithful friends were the heritage left by
Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah (The third ruler of Kuwait) to his successor, Sabah, as said by the British Resident in the Gulf, Lewis Pelly, who visited Kuwait in 1863 and 1865. That testament had its impact on the regime stability on this good earth which led to flourish and develop Kuwait while other states round region have deviated from justice, resulting in deteriorated living and economic status. Historic friendship which has linked Kuwait and the UK was a model of the relations that continue politically and culturally till today. The Centre for Research and Studies on Kuwait (CRSK) has the pleasure to publish this booklet to document this relation on the occasion of HH Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah's visit to the UK after having the reins of power in the State of Kuwait; this visit crowns these relations and emphasizes its continuation between the two friendly countries.

Prof Abdullah Y al Ghunaim CRSK Chairman 3



recorded relation with Britain

started in mid 1775 when the British mail route from India to Aleppo via the Gulf was unloaded at Kuwait instead of Zubair and Basra. This desert route was of particular importance to the British East India Company not only for forwarding mail to and from India, but also serving wide commercial purposes. Kuwait seems to have offered a solution to the difficulties of the British East India Company in transporting and marketing Indian goods in Syria, the Middle East and European countries.


A British sailing ship

A Kuwaiti sailing ship

Maritime skill and naval interest are of the most vital mutual characteristics of the Kuwaiti and British people

In July 1776, Mr Latouche, the British Eastern
India Company agent in Basra, asked Lieutenant Twiss, captain of the ship 'Terrible' to follow up mail there, and take measures to regulate and organize it. In November 1777, Kuwait was visited by the British Company's ship the 'Eagle.' Its crew reported that Kuwait harbour was suitable for anchorage. The report continued that it was walled and received the caravans which enjoyed security. In the Early 1970s difficulties with the Ottoman officials compelled Samuel Manesty and the staff of the British Factory at Basra to move into Kuwait in April 1793 and established themselves there until August 1795. Their selection of Kuwait as a place of refuge for their Factory implies that it cannot have been in any way an Ottoman dependency.


Before the British Trading Agency moved from Basra in 1793, Kuwait was an important trading centre as clearly mentioned in the Dutch reports. The diary of the History of Medicine of the British surgeon Piggott, kept in Wellcome Library in London (No 3906), shows that some caravans which departed from Kuwait (Qurain) to Aleppo in 1758 consisted of 5000 camels and 1000 men.
(The Origins of Kuwait, Slot, p 136).

A photo of Frans Canter letter, the senior secretary of the Dutch East Indian Company at Basra. The letter was written in Kuwait and was mailed to one of his relatives in Aleppo.


reports revealed that Sheikh Abdullah

al-Sabah, the then ruler of Kuwait, was on good terms with the British and it is also reported that the Sheikh received them with great hospitality on their arrival at Kuwait and during their residence. In return, the British Agency shared in flourishing Kuwait's

business, and its economic development. The chairman of the British Factory had not only good relations with Kuwait's Sheikh but it also extended to many Kuwaiti merchants whose vessels the Factory sometimes used to

transport the Company's mail into India in order to evade the French fleet which got in the way of the British ships during the last decade of the eighteenth century.


An old cannon on the coast of Kuwait City, photographed by Allen Villiers in 1939

The British Factory also played a prominent
part in defending Kuwait against its neighbours’ raids during that period. Brydges, the second Factory man in Kuwait, mentioned that Kuwaitis' bravery alone defended their country, and trusts in their sober Sheikh Abdullah Bin Sabah, as well, whom they considered their father not their ruler. It is worthy of note that the Factory assistance had its impact in repulsing the attacks. Manesty brought to Kuwait, from a British cruiser, two cannons and the attackers also suffered disastrous casualties from that battleship fire. Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah asserted those events. He stated that the cannons the British supplied his grandfather, Sheikh Abdullah, still existed during his reign (a message from the
newsagent in Kuwait on 6th September, 1899).


A photo, dated 23 April 1841, of the agreement signed by Sheikh Sabah Bin Jaber on behalf of his father Sheikh Jaber Bin Abdulla al-Sabah in which he committed himself to spread security and fight piracy in the Gulf.

The First Agreement Between Britain and Kuwait (1841)

Good relations between Kuwait and Britain continued even after reestablishing the factory at
Basra during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Although Kuwait did not sign the January Agreement of 1820, which tried to regulate relations between the sheikhdoms of Oman coasts, Kuwait-British relations and personal interrelations between Kuwait's ruler and the Factory staff in the Gulf were still on good terms. One of the important events at that time was the relocation of the British Factory for a second time from Basra to Kuwait from 15 December 1921 till April 1922. The British selection of Kuwait instead of any other Gulf capital shows that Kuwait enjoys a good political and commercial reputation since that selection followed the Agreement of 8 January 1820 (Trucial States) from which Kuwait abstained from endorsing. In 1839, and due to the Turkish -Egyptian danger in the Gulf, Captain Hill and his assistant Edmonds tried to officially be bound with the ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber, whom they considered a good friend of the British Government. When the struggle between Iran, the Ottoman State and the British authorities affected the maritime activity and pearl diving, Kuwait decided to sign the Naval Agreement which Britain called the countries of the region to join for security, stability and in protection of ship owners from the dangers that resulted from such conflict. That agreement was signed by Sheikh Sabah Bin Jaber on behalf of his father in April 1841. 13

A rare text of Lewis Pelly about Kuwaiti Emirs and their rule philosophy, which emphasized adherence to friendship and justice to spread prosperity in their country.

Lewis Pelly

Lewis Pelly Visited Kuwait

Kuwait received a number of British officials during the reign of Sheiks Jaber and Sabah which
marked good relations between Kuwait and Britain. Colonel Lewis Pelly, the British Political Resident in the Gulf, visited Kuwait in the 1860s. On his first visit on 4 March 1863, he spent three days followed by a second visit on his way to Riyadh on 18 February 1865 for three weeks. He met its ruler, Sheikh Sabah Bin Jaber. Pelly narrates what Sheikh Sabah informed him how he managed Kuwait affairs, the political, psychological, and personal characteristics of its ruler, and the political wisdom and cleverness he inherited from his father. He said: "When my father was nearly 120 years old, remarked the Sheikh to me, he called me and said, 'Soon I shall die. I have made no fortune, and can leave you no money; but I have made many true friends, grapple them. While other states round the Gulf have fallen off from injustice or ill-government, mine has gone on increasing. Hold to my policy, and though you are surrounded by a desert, and passed on by a once hostile and still wandering set of tribes, you will flourish." Pelly commented on Kuwait's ruler speech, saying: "Thus a group of naval tribes could establish a stable secure country under the fostering care of a succession of common-sense rulers and by means of a policy wisely originated and systematically pursued, that an Arab tribe was promoted to masters of a thriving port, which was a refuge for the oppressed, and a peaceful home to all." "I confess I looked round with something like amazement at finding such a political and commercial structure in such a region, and the work of such hands." Pelly introduced a good image about Kuwait's population, its economic activities, and its importance as a gate of the Arab desert through which one could accomplish all needed communications with the political powers inside the Arabian Peninsula. 15

Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah , 1896 - 1915

British-Kuwait Agreement, January 1899

In the last decade of the nineteenth century,
Britain was highly interested in the northern areas of the Gulf, besides other European countries, especially Germany, drew the Ottoman State's attention due to Kuwait strategic location to build up the Berlin-Baghdad railway which would extend to Kazima in Kuwait. The Ottoman State began to interfere in Kuwait's affairs, and create an influence on its territory. Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah tried to protect himself and evade the Ottoman administration in Basra. The intrigues of Basra rulers, and their direct and indirect ways to have a foothold in Kuwait, forced him to communicate with the British Political Resident in the Gulf in February 1897.


A photo of the Anglo-Kuwait Agreement of 1899

He informed him that he looked forward to
the British support against the Ottoman interference. At first, the British hesitated for fear of arousing the Ottoman State. After the British had been convinced that Kuwait was not under Ottoman suzerainty or sovereignty, and for fear of Ottoman pressure on Kuwait to cede a part of its land to Germany to build Berlin-Baghdad railway, Colonel Mead, the British Resident in the Gulf, visited Kuwait and negotiated with Sheikh Mubarak, about various issues, the most important was Kuwait relation with the Ottoman State. On 23 January 1899, an agreement was concluded. The agreement stated that the Sheikh of Kuwait, acting on his own accord and at his own discretion, pledges that he would forever refuse an agent on his territories from any state or government without the consent of the British Government and would not mandate, lease, mortgage or dispose any part of his territories without its consent. 19

Exchanged messages between Colonel Percy Cox and Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah in which the latter vowed not to offer any oil concession without the consent of the British Government (October, 1913)


agreement may be classified as an agreement for the "exchange of benefits (quid pro quo)." In other words, it does not fall under the category of arbitrary agreements, which are concluded for the benefit of one party at the expense of the other. It would be, thus, difficult to say that it was a "Protectorate Agreement" in the traditional sense of agreements concluded during these days. Both Britain and Kuwait gave a thing in return for something else: * Britain got guarantees and exceptions for its interests and Sheikh Mubarak agreed to have a British agent in Kuwait. * Kuwait was satisfied that Britain would support it against the influence of the Ottoman State and its attempts to interfere in its affairs, and Sheikh Mubarak would obtain the weapons he needed to use against his enemies.


Lord Curzon and his spouse

Lord Curzon Visit to Kuwait

Lord Curzon, the King's viceroy in India, toured
the Gulf states during the autumn of 1903, which was a clear indication of the new policy of Britain in the area and asserted the distinguished historic relations between Britain and Kuwait. Curzon and his spouse arrived at Kuwait on 28 November 1903 on the ship Harding to find the whole British fleet waiting for him. Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah went aboard of the ship accompanied by Colonel Kembal, the British Resident in the Gulf, to welcome the guest. On the next morning, Lord Curzon landed at al-Shuwaikh where Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabah and his son Jaber al-Mubarak, his heir were waiting him. Lord Curzon rode a luxurious cart Sheikh Mubarak ordered from Mombay for this occasion.


Two hundred horsemen with their Arab horses, twenty men with their quick white camel corps, and about 400 fighters armed with British Martini rifles beside a great tribal crowd, received Lord Curzon and his spouse. Kuwait's lanes and roads were a spokesman who tout-â-fait illustrated the image of people who knew how to welcome their guests.

The reception cast a soft shadow on the guests
who were very pleased according to Curzon reports, the articles of The Times and in Lord Curzon's spouse account included in her book The Trip Tales, published in New York in 1923. That visit realized some urgent demands. Sheikh Mubarak could define and delineate his northern borders. Kuwait, also, acquired a strong reliable friend who would adopt Kuwait's point of view. That visit also emphasized Kuwait prestige in the region and the Ottoman State put into consideration Kuwait's Sheikh. Mubarak's relation with Lord Curzon

continued even after his retirement. Sheikh Mubarak consoled him on his spouse demise.


British troops in Kuwait in April 1928

Relations after Mubarak

Well established relations continued between
the two countries after Mubarak's era. His successors kept all the agreements he signed with them. Britain presented numerous

overtures to Kuwait in health, communication, and postal services as well as military support to defend Kuwait when facing danger as had taken place in 1920 and 1928. In the 1930s, the late Sheikh Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah signed a concession with Kuwait Oil Company -a British company- to drill for oil, refine and export it. Drilling for oil halted during WWII. The first oil cargo was shipped to Britain on 30 June 1946. Therefore both parties benefited:


The Late Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah after receiving the India medal standing between Sir Jeffery Prior and commodore Hanson, the commander of the naval forces in the Gulf, and Lewis Pelly, the British Political Resident in Kuwait


secured a source of energy for its

requirements and Kuwait guaranteed a new era of progress and prosperity. It is worthy of note that the late Sheikh Ahmad al-Jaber was the first Kuwaiti official who visited Britain. After the allies victory in WWI, the late Sheikh Salem al-Mubarak delegated his crown prince Sheikh Ahmad to

congratulate King George V. Sheikh Ahmad al-Jaber met King George V on 30 October 1919 offering him three presents: an Arab

gold-plated dagger, a historic sword and an Arab horse. Sheikh Ahmad toured Britain where he visited its landmarks. On 15 May 1935, he revisited Britain after he had taken the reins of power.


HH the late Sheikh Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah with Mr James Callahan the former British Prime Minister

During the 1950s, Kuwait benefited from the
British experience to modernize the state. Kuwait sent students and delegates to Britain to specialize in many fields. In 1955, the late Sheikh Sabah al-Salem visited Britain during his post as police director. For seven days he visited the Foreign

Administration in the Ministry of Interior, Scotland Yard, Police training schools, map section, information and fingerprint section, and other police sections. This visit helped the late Sheikh Sabah to adopt many procedures which developed the police agency in Kuwait.


HH Sheikh Abdullah al-Salem al-Sabah and the British Political Resident of Her Majesty in the Gulf, Sir William Loss, signing independence document between the Kuwaiti Government and its counterpart, the British Government

The Independence of Kuwait, 19 June, 1961

Kuwait independence represents an understanding between the United Kingdom (UK) and
Kuwait, opposite to many countries that had relations with Britain. According to national, regional, and international aspects, Kuwait independence was a must and Britain accepted. On 19 June 1961, independence was announced in both London and Kuwait. The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Abdullah al-Salem and the British Political Resident of Her Majesty in the Gulf, Sir William Los, exchanged letters to end the 1899 Agreement, declaring Kuwait's independence, continuation of friendly relations between the two parties and British government readiness to help its counterpart, the Kuwaiti government. In July, immediately after Kuwait's independence, Abdulkareem Qasim, the ruler of Iraq, aroused the whole world when he threatened to occupy Kuwait. Sheikh Abdullah al-Salem issued a statement asserting that Kuwait is an independent Arab sovereign state, and that "the Kuwaiti people are determined to defend their country, and the he is convinced that the Arab States and other friendly peace loving states will support Kuwait to preserve its independence." Britain hurried to protect Kuwait and face aggression; its forces resided in Kuwait till 10 October when they were substituted by Arab forces called by the Arab League. They resided in Kuwait till the fall of that Iraqi regime.


The Meeting between the late Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the UK, during her visit to Kuwait in 1979.

In continuation of good relations between Kuwait and Britain , HH the late Emir of Kuwait
Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah invited Queen Elizabeth of the UK to visit Kuwait on 12 May 1979. It was the Queen's first visit to Kuwait. She was accompanied by her husband Duke of Edinburgh. On her itinerary, she visited al-Seef Palace, Ahmadi City, the exhibition of Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), and attended the popular ceremony prepared for her visit to Kuwait. HH the Emir held a dinner in her honour, and exchanged medals. On the third day she left Kuwait after a cordial reception which shows the deep relation between the two countries that spans 200 years.


HH the Father Emir Sheikh Sa'ad al-Abdullah al-Salem al-Sabah in his meeting with Baronet Margaret Thatcher in her visit to Kuwait in 1991

The Kuwaitis will never forget the great role played by Britain in liberating Kuwait from the
Iraqi occupation of August 1990. Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister, played a vital role to foment the world powers to denounce and deter the aggressor. The British military troops were the third in number after the American and the Saudi troops. Indeed it was the first British troops deployment after WWII. British companies and foundations participated in Kuwait's reconstruction after its liberation. Reconstruction included the repair of roads, bridges, water and energy networks and participating in the extinguishing of oil wells and elimination of landmines. HH the Emir visited the UK on 2 October 1991, after Kuwait's liberation, where he met with a number of British politicians to show Kuwait's appreciation and gratitude for the British comprehensive and effective participation in liberating Kuwait. HH urged them to exert their efforts to obtain the release of Kuwaiti prisoners and third party detainees in the Iraqi jails during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. On an invitation of HH Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad, Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister arrived at Kuwait on 23 November 1991. That invitation was extended as an appreciation and honour for the vital role the UK played in forming the international coalition against Saddam Hussein who stunned the world by invading Kuwait on 2 August, 1990.


The late Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber in company of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of Britain (May, 1995)


of the late Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad

al-Sabah interest in the Gulf area stability, the necessity of Iraq's compliance with the international will and the execution of all Security Council resolutions related to the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, HH paid a second visit to the British capital on 24 May 1995. He was highly welcomed by Her Majesty the Queen, and the then Prime Minister, John Major. The discussions run in the British Government headquarters dealt with bilateral relations, the security status in the Gulf, and the importance of stability there. HE John Major stated that the Emir visit incarnated strong friendly relations between Britain and its oldest ally in the Gulf.


Of the Emir speeches during this meeting:
“I would like to express Kuwait's people gratitude and appreciation to the British People for their noble and firm attitude during the despot aggression against our land which Kuwait's people would never forget.”

HH the late Emir with Mr John Major the former UK Prime Minister


HH the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah with Mr Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister

Those visits contributed to cementing the British relations. They coped with different political
circumstances; participated in education, commerce, defence, development, training and exchanging experience in managing economy; paid attention to the English language, which is the second language in Kuwait and helped many Kuwaitis to visit Britain for business, education, medical treatment, and tourism. **** HH Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, during his former career as a Minister of Foreign Affairs, and later a Prime Minister, had many friendly relations with key British personnel especially ministers of foreign affairs. Those relations extended for four decades. There was coordination in attitudes and stances; understanding in the mutual issues, and hard work to realize security and stability in the region. HH Sheikh Sabah present visit, after he has taken the reins of power in Kuwait, indicates the importance of mutual relations and emphasizes its continuation in a way to serve the two countries' interests in particular and the Gulf and Arab ones in general.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful