Structural Foundations

  • Helene von Bismarck
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)


It is not easy to define the constitutional relationship that existed between Great Britain and the states of the Persian Gulf before the former withdrew from the area in 1971. Certainly Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, and the seven Trucial States never fitted into any of the categories of constitutional dependency that constituted Britain’s formal empire: at no moment in history were they colonies, protectorates, condominiums, or mandate territories.1 The situation was further complicated by the fact that each of these Gulf States had a different legal relationship with Britain. From the point of view of international law, while the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was always a fully independent state,2 throughout Britain’s long presence in the region, the constitutional status of the others was described differently by British officials and politicians, being variously referred to as protected states, dependencies, dependent states, and states in exclusive treaty relations with the British Government.


Local Ruler British Petroleum East India Company Royal Dutch Shell British Policy 
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  1. 1.
    James Onley, ‘Britain’s Informal Empire in the Gulf, 1820–1971’, Journal of Social Affairs, Vol. 22, No. 87, 2005, pp. 29–45Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    James Onley, ‘The Raj Reconsidered: British India’s Informal Empire and Spheres of Influence in Asia and Africa’, Asian Affairs, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2009, pp. 44–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 20.
    See James Onley, The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj: Merchants, Rulers, and the British in the Nineteenth-Century Gulf, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007, p. 36.Google Scholar
  4. 23.
    See Uzi Rabi, ‘Britain’s “Special Position” in the Gulf: Its Origins, Dynamics and Legacy’, in: Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 42, 2006, pp. 351–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 84.
    Tom Walcott, ‘The Trucial Oman Scouts 1955 to 1971: An Overview’, Asian Affairs, Vol. 37, No. 1, 2006, pp. 17–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 94.
    See Christian Lekon, ‘Die anglo-amerikanische Politik und die Ölfirmen im Mittleren Osten, 1901–2004’, Zeitschrift für Weltgeschichte, Vol. 5, No. 2, Autumn 2004, pp. 79–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Helene von Bismarck 2013

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  • Helene von Bismarck

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