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Tajir, Mahdi A. (1986) Britain, the Shaikh and the administration of Bahrain, 1920-1945. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis is concerned with the history of Bahrain in the period 1920-45. It is based primarily on archival material in the India Office Records. The earlier chapters in the thesis deal with the Administration of Shaikh Isa bin Ali Alkhalifah, whose active rule of Bahrain encompassed 55 years, from 1869 to May 1923 when the British Government retired him, against his will, in the long-term interests of the ruling family of Bahrain and those of the country as a whole. Under his period in office, both the ruling family and their tribal associates had acquired immense power, privileges and autonomy. After the First World War, the serious faults which the Shaikh's administration had manifested over the years became a much publicized affair and a source of great embarrassment to the British Government. In Bahrain, the Shaikh's Shiah Arab subjects, who were the victims of discriminatory policies, rebelled in February 1922 and brought the country's administration to a halt. The thesis assesses the role played by the Foreign Office, the Government of India which maintained direct links with the Shaikh and the British Political Authorities in the Gulf, before and during the adoption of a policy of reforms in Bahrain. Also included in the discussion are: the actual reforms carried out under Shaikh Hamad, the Heir Apparent and Shaikh Isa's deputy, the struggle conducted by the ruling family and their tribal supporters against the reforms, and the support given by the Shi ah Arabs to Shaikh Hamad's Administration over their introduction. The modernization process during the years 1923-26 was supervized by the British Agent in Bahrain and it produced an organized government structure formed of specialized, secular departments and offices. This was the first time such a modern administration had been created in the Arab Shaikhdoms. Other chapters examine the politics of education and educational reform, reform of the pearling industry and the causes for the decline of the pearl-trade of Bahrain. The advent of oil is also studied and the new industry is seen to have saved the country from economic disaster in the aftermath of the recession of the early 1930s. The thesis concludes that the Government of India vacillated over the initiation of the reforms in Baihrain and that even when it agreed to them it was goaded into action by the Foreign Office whose officials acted in response to Tehran's criticisms that the Government of India shared responsibility for Shaikh Isa's misrule. The reforms curbed the power of the ruling family and at the same time they enhanced British influence over the administration of Bahrain. More penetrating than the administrative reforms were the far-reaching socio-economic changes induced by the establishment of the oil industry in Bahrain. Greater communication and travel became possible after Bahrain's entry into the age of oil. Wider co-operation between Sunnis and Shi ahs, such as Bahrain witnessed in the second half of the 1930s was due chiefly to the subjection of Bahraini schoolboys of both sects to a unified system of education and to their sharing of jobs as employees of the Oil Company, and also to the increased political awareness of the people and their leaders. It should be noted also that the influx of oil revenues gave greater wealth to the ruling family and thereby helped to strengthen their position and powers.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:12

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