The economical development of the Arabian Gulf always played an important role in international economic relations. The impact of the economical development of the Arabian Gulf on the international trade and international economical cooperation was obvious at different historical epochs. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that the economical potential of the region often attracted foreign invaders to establish their control over the region. On the other hand, the countries situated in the Arabian Gulf constantly conflicted with each other that naturally undermined their economic, political and military power. In such a situation, it seems to be quite natural that the most powerful empires of their epochs the Ottoman Empire and British Empire successfully established control over the region and, what is even more important, they produced a profound impact on their further development at large, and local economy in particular.
The reasons for entering the area
Speaking about the impact of the Ottoman and British empires on the Arabian Gulf, it is primarily necessary to dwell upon the reasons for both empires entered the region. In this respect, it should be said that the reasons were not purely economic but also involved political and military factors.
The Ottoman Empire, for instance, needed to establish its control over the region of the Arabian Gulf because it played a strategically important role in its national policy. To put it more precisely, the Ottoman Empire needed to secure its Southern borders since it had a strong opposition in the West and North. In such a situation, the threat from the part of the Arabian Gulf states made the further development of the empire quite problematic since in the case of a military conflict it would be simply torn apart if the bordering countries formed an alliance. In contrast, the Arabian Gulf controlled by the Ottoman Empire provided the country with an opportunity to increase its geopolitical role in the world, concentrate its military forces in Northern and Western regions and, thus, be more competitive in the international politics. At the same time, the occupation of the Arabian Gulf was highly beneficial for the Ottoman Empire from the economical point of view because after the invasion it was possible to establish total control over the local trade.
As for the British Empire, it should be said that this country was also strategically interested in the control over the Arabian Gulf region because it provided the empire with a number of advantages inaccessible to its major opponents in the international competition between imperialistic states. In fact, the British Empire was an Empire where the sun had never set. Practically it means that the colonies of the British Empire were situated in different parts of the world and were remote from Great Britain. As a result, the empire needed stable trade routs for the transportation of its goods from the colonies as well as it needed regularly supply its colonial administrations and overseas armies with equipment, technological resources, new military forces, etc. Consequently, the control over the Arabian Gulf was vitally important for the huge British Empire.
In such a way, both empires needed to enter the Arabian Gulf and establish its own control in the region because of the similar reasons though the Ottoman Empire were more interested in the region as an essential part of the empire while the British were rather interested in the region as a strategically important point which could facilitate the empire’s links with its colonies and serve as a transportation corridor.
Economical changes made by the empires
Naturally, on establishing control over the Arabian Gulf, the Ottoman Empire as well as the British Empire produced a profound impact on the development of the region and influenced the local economy. At the same time, it is important to underline that the Ottoman Empire invaded the region and united the states of the Arabian Gulf in one Empire, while the British Empire basically established the economic dominance in the region supported by military and political pressure on the states of the region without direct invasion of countries of the Arabian Gulf.
As a result, it is possible to estimate that the Ottoman Empire directly controlled and defined the development of the Arabian Gulf in all spheres of life, including economy, while the impact of the British Empire was rather indirect but it does not necessarily mean that it was less strong compared to the impact of the Ottoman Empire.
Speaking about the economical changes implemented by the empires in the Arabian Gulf, it is necessary to point out that the Ottoman Empire united the countries of the Arabian Gulf and stopped exhausting military conflicts between the states. In such a way, such political stability produced a positive impact on the economic development of the region where trade played an extremely important role. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that it was the rare case when the states of the Arabian Gulf could develop their trade without any substantial barriers between the countries. In fact, they constituted one and the same empire and, thus, there were no serious fiscal or financial problems in relations between the states and their trade. Moreover, it also provided the states with an opportunity to get involved in the international trade as the Ottoman Empire stretching from Balkans to the Middle East and the Indian Ocean was a natural link between Europe and Asia. Consequently, the major sea and trade routs went through the Ottoman Empire and the Arabian Gulf that contributed to the involvement of the local states in the international trade.
As for the British Empire, the traditional use of the Arabian Gulf, as an important transportation corridor and strategically important region to the international trade, was significant but not the only economically beneficial aspect of the dominance in the Arabian Gulf. In fact, the British brought the totally new system of the economic relations in the Arabian Gulf. In other words, before the British the local economy developed in accordance with traditional rules and norms, while the expansion of the British Empire brought to the Arabian Gulf the new system of market relations where traditional cultural values, or religious beliefs, became secondary compared to the economic profits and material wealth. Moreover, traditionally, social position of an individual was defined not only by his economic status but also by his origin, history of his family, the respect to his services to a state, his public image, morality, etc. However, as the British arrived, the material wealth grew more and more important to the extent that it played the defining role in the social positioning of an individual. At the same time, market economy also brought the untypical chase for material wealth and luxury that became prior to moral, ethical and religious values of the local population.
Finally, it should be said that it is due to the British impact, the natural resources of the Arabian Gulf get started to be actively exploiting. In fact, it was British companies that were the first companies that developed the local oil and gas industry.
The efficiency of economical changes
Obviously, both empires produced a profound impact on the economical development of the region. At the same time, it is necessary to point out that the impact of the British empire seems to be more profound since the British brought a really new system of economic relation in the Arabian Gulf. Moreover, they contributed to the development of the local oil and gas industry which are the dominant industry of practically all of the states of the Arabian Gulf. It means that the British Empire shaped the current economic profile of the region.
At the same time, it is important to underline that the Ottoman Empire initiated the integration of the Arabian Gulf in the world economy since the empire had managed to unite the states and integrate their economies into the solid structure which was beneficial for all the states as well as for the empire at large.
This is why it should be said that the impact of the Ottoman Empire was also quite significant. Nevertheless, the changes conducted by the Ottoman Empire did not bring the Arabian Gulf independence, while the changes initiated by the British provided the states of the Arabian Gulf with a possibility to get rich and develop their own economy and politics relatively independently from a foreign impact.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the Ottoman and British empires were strategically interested in the control over the Arabian Gulf region that resulted in their expansion and establishment of their control over the local states. At the same time, the economic changes made by both empires defined the modern economical situation in the region and, in this respect, it seems to be obvious that the economic changes made by the British turned to be more efficient and more profound compared to the changes made by Ottomans.
Blfour-Paul, Glen. The End of Empire in the Middle East, New York: Routeldge, 2004.
Burdock, F. G. The Ottoman Rule in the Middle East, New York: New Publishers, 1998.
Foreman, L. The History of the Middle East, LA: Routledge, 2001.
Patterson, J. The Middle East: the History of European expansion, New York: McGraw Hill, 1999.
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