Kuwait Political Agency: Arabic Documents 1899–1949

ISBN: (13) 978-1-85207-440-1  Extent: 13 volumes, 8,000 pages

Editor: Dr M. Asser    Published: 1994
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available


This large collection of primary source documents constitutes a newly accessible and valuable research resource for Kuwaiti, Saudi and Arab Gulf history, reflecting the development of the region, relations with rulers, local and tribal information. It constitutes a comprehensive publication of the Arabic documents found in the files of the British Political Agency, Kuwait, now conserved in the British Library (Oriental & India Office Collections). The collection is arranged in chronological order and is complemented by the addition of a detailed contents list describing, in English and Arabic, every document.


This publication has its origin in the desire to make available the mass of material in the Arabic language from the files of the British Political Agency, Kuwait, in the first half of the twentieth century. The Arabic texts preserved in these files form a rich and interesting source for reading and research. The volume and range of material is extensive, the majority consisting of correspondence that passed between the Ruler and the Political Agency. Although the Agreement between Kuwait and Great Britain, (23 January 1899), gave the British no right to intervene in domestic affairs, many of the letters and reports concern internal matters such as pearling, trade, banking, Islamic and legal affairs and oil negotiations. A larger number, however, deal with tribal disturbances, Wahhabi incursions, the ruling family’s date gardens in Basra, smuggling and other issues involving Kuwait’s external affairs and, in particular relations with her neighbours in what are today Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Of special interest are documents that refer to incidents prefiguring recent crises in the region – incidents in the late 1930s, for example, when Kuwait faced the danger of invasion or annexation by Iraq and when many Kuwaitis tried in vain to curtail the powers and privileges of the Ruler, Shaikh Ahmad al-Jabir Al-Sabah (r. 1921-1950), and his family.
The decision was taken to publish in its entirety the series of Arabic documents found in the Kuwait Agency files within the India Office Records, together with any English translations accompanying the Arabic texts. The publishers acknowledge the assistance of the British Library (Oriental and India Office Collections) as well as the earlier listing Arabic Documents in the archives of the British Political Agency, Kuwait, 1904-1949 (Ashtiany, J.; British Library 1982), which provided a starting point for this work.
The present collection was prepared for publication by Martin Asser. The historical introduction has been contributed by Alan de L. Rush, editor of Records of Kuwait (Archive Editions 1989). Each volume includes a complete document list in both English and Arabic.


23, January 1899: Agreement between Shaikh Mubarak and British Government.
Stipulates that no representative of any foreign power should be received by the Ruler of Kuwait and his heirs and successors without permission of the British Government.

18 August 1904: Letter from Ibn Saud to Capt. S.G. Knox
Ibn Saud requests British assistance against attacks by the Turks and Abd al-Aziz ibn Rashid.

5 June 1910: Letter from Shaikh Mubarak to Major P. Z. Cox
Shaikh Mubarak tells Cox of his refusal to comply with Ottoman Government demands that his children, in whose names Ruler´s property in Iraq is registered, should take out Turkish Nationality.

27 October 1913: Letter from Sir P. Z. Cox to Shaikh Mubarak
Having obtained Shaikh Mubarak´s consent to examination of bitumen deposits at Burqan, and his agreement to granting oil concession only to nominees of Britain, may he confirm same to his superiors?

November 1915: Telegram from Jabir al-Mubarak to Sir P. Z. Cox
Informs Sir Percy of the death of Shaikh Mubarak and of his own appointment as Acting Ruler of Kuwait pending his accession to his father´s position.

May/June 1917: Correspondence between Ibn Saud and Sir Percy Cox
Sir Percy urges Ibn Saud to take Ha´il, since Ibn Rashid´s position is weakened and the area is under threat from his enemies to the North. Ibn Saud replies that Ha´il is not in danger as Ibn Rashid has no enemies to the North and those enemies he does have are not in a position to act. He tells Sir Percy that he is ill-informed and should send an Arab specialist to Ibn Saud´s camp to learn about the natural and political conditions in Arabia.

21 June 1920: Confidential Postcript to letter from Ibn Saud to Shaikh Salim al-Mubarak
Ibn Saud describes mutual historical obligations between Rulers of Kuwait and the House of Saud, and he threatens war if his sovereignty is infringed in current border dispute.

17 September 1920: Statement by Shaikh Salim al-Mubarak
Outlining Kuwaiti boundaries claimed against Najd.

March 1921: Letter from Shaikh Ahmad al-Jabir to Shaikh Khaz´al of Muhammara
Describes how news of Shaikh Salim´s sudden death in al-Tahra reaches him while he is in the company of Ibn Saud. On receiving the news, Ibn Saud declared peace with Kuwait and sent messengers to al-Hasa, al-Qatif and all other Najdi ports to spread the message.

3 November 1921: Letter from Ibn Saud to Major J. C. More
Ibn Saud informs the Political Agent that he had captured Ha´il and members of the al-Rashid family, including Muhammad bin Tallal, 12th Amir of Ha´il and Jabal Shammar.

June 1929: Letters from Faisal al-Duwish [leader of the Ikhwan] to Shaikh Ahmad al-Jabir
Asking for military alliance between Shaikh Ahmad and himself and proposing him as Ibn Saud´s replacement as intermediary between Ikhwan and the Government of Iraq. Suggesting that Shaikh Ahmad declare his adherence to tenets of the Ikhwan and become their Imam. In return for certain supplies and his mediation with British and King Faisal, Shaikh would be paid full dues as the religious leader of the Ikhwan and Kuwait would be ´restored to its former glory´.

28 November 1932: Lt.Col. H. R. P. Dickson to Ibn Saud
Ibn Saud is recognised by the British Government as King of Saudi Arabia.

18 July 1935: Shaikh Ahmad al-Jabir [staying at Hans Crescent Hotel, London] to Lt.Col. H. R. P. Dickson
Reports to Political Agent that he has visited the India Office and is due to have tea with the King at Buckingham Palace on 22 July 1935.

5 October 1938: Letter from Lt.Col. T. C. Fowle to Shaikh Ahmad al-Jabir
Sends his congratulations to Shaikh Ahmad on the formation of the Kuwait Council and confirms that Britain will remain in charge of Kuwait´s foreign affairs.