The Kuwait Crisis and Its Consequences

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


In May 1961, Sir William Luce took up office as the new political resident in the Persian Gulf.1 He was not a career diplomat but had served in the Sudan Political Service for 26 years, before being seconded to the Colonial Office as Governor of Aden from 1956 to 1960.2 The Foreign Office took the occasion of his appointment to Bahrain to re-examine Britain’s policy aims in the Persian Gulf, focusing particularly on the question of whether the relationship between the British Government and the rulers of the Gulf States, along with Britain’s military presence, continued to be the best means of protecting British interests in the region. The results of this debate were conveyed to Luce in a despatch from Lord Home, the secretary of state for foreign affairs.3 Despatch No. 77, which explained Britain’s responsibilities and interests in the Gulf before outlining the tasks Luce was expected to perform as political resident, mirrored the conception of Britain’s informal empire in the Persian Gulf region that prevailed in the Foreign Office on the eve of Kuwait’s formal independence.


Saudi Arabia United Nations Arab World Protected State Military Presence 
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  1. 13.
    Arab nationalism as a political ideology originated early in the twentieth century, when the Western idea of nationalism gained support among the Arab subjects of the faltering Ottoman Empire. The main aim of Arab nationalism was the unification of all Arabic-speaking states and the freedom of the Arab world from foreign domination. Arab nationalism turned into a political mass movement in the Arab world after the Second World War. From the British perspective, Arab nationalism’s anti-colonial ethos was dangerous. See Bahgat Korany, ‘Arab Nationalism’, in John L. Esposito (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Oxford University Press/Oxford 1995, Vol. I, pp. 132–134.Google Scholar
  2. 22.
    See Nigel John Ashton, ‘Britain and the Kuwait Crisis, 1961’, Diplomacy and Statecraft, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998, p. 166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 23.
    William Taylor Fain, ‘John F. Kennedy and Harold Macmillan: Managing the “Special Relationship” in the Persian Gulf Region, 1961–63’, Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 38, No. 4, October 2002, pp. 95–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 38.
    See Zahlan,’ shades of the Past’, pp. 72–73; also Ashton, ‘A Microcosm of Decline: British Loss of Nerve and Military Intervention in Jordan and Kuwait, 1958 and 1961’, The Historical Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4, 1997, pp. 1073–1074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Helene von Bismarck 2013

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  • Helene von Bismarck

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