Persian Gulf Trade Reports 1905–1940, The

 (13) 978-1-85207-050-2   Extent:  8 volumes, 3,250 pages  
Editor:  [Collection Advisor: Penelope Tuson, Curator, Middle East Archives, The British Library: India Office Library and Records]     Published: 1987
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

In the early years of the century most of these annual trade reports were edited and made available to the general public in the form of parliamentary papers. Certain issues, however, were classified as confidential and were not made available to the public even in summary form, for example the pre-World War I Kuwait reports. Complete sets such as this are, therefore, extremely rare and form an essential research tool for the study of the economic and social development of the Gulf in the 20th century. There are two volumes each for: Bahrain, Kuwait, Muscat, and Bushire.


The annual Administration Reports were compiled from 1873 onwards by the British Political Resident at Bushire and by the Agent at Muscat. At first they included statistics of trade carried on at ports on both the Arabian and Persian shores of the Gulf. In the early 1900s, after the opening of Political Agencies at Kuwait and Bahrain as well as a number of new Consulates in southern Persia, the Government of India decided to re-design the increasingly unwieldy Administration Reports and print the trade statistics in a revised form. From 1905 the Administration Reports included only brief summaries of trade. The detailed figures for each area were compiled and issued separately as the Persian Gulf Trade Reports.
The Trade Reports were compiled by British political and consular officials in Muscat, Bahrain, Kuwait and Bushire where the British Residency was originally situated. They consist of narrative summaries or overviews of the year´s events, covering subjects such as agriculture, banking (currency and exchange rates), customs, the pearl industry and fishing as well as trade.
There are also tabular shipping returns and export and import tables which list commodities, their quantity and value and countries of origin or destination. Lists of merchants are sometimes given and transport and freight regulations.
However, the authors of the reports rarely confine themselves simply to trading or economic data. Often they include material of a much broader interest, for example on the political situation in the locality or on administrative and social matters. Rainfall, education, wages and public health are just a few of the more unexpected subjects covered.


Most of these annual trade reports were published, but not in any consistent way and not in full. They were printed by the Government of India and distributed to other British government departments and agencies. In the early years of the century they were also edited and made available to the general public in the form of Parliamentary Papers. Summaries were printed in the Indian Trade Journal. Certain issues, however, were classified as Confidential - the pre-World War I Kuwait reports, for example - and were not made available to the public even in summary form.
Complete sets are, therefore, difficult to locate without lengthy searches in British government archives. This edition, which is compiled from original Government of India prints and Parliamentary Papers in the India Office Records in London, provides a convenient and time-saving research tool for everyone interested in the economic and social development of the Gulf in the twentieth century. The Trade Reports supplement the data provided for the period 1873-1905 by the Administration Reports.


This first published edition brings all available material together in a standard library format of 248mm x 160mm .The series of annual reports is consolidated in 8 volumes as follows:
Volumes I & II: Muscat
Volumes III& IV: Bahrain

Volumes V & VI: Kuwait
Volumes VII & VIII: Bushire
The annual reports for Bushire end at 1924. Four further economic reports about the Persian Gulf as a whole were issued from Bushire for the years 1924, 1929, 1935 and 1937 and are found in the Bushire volume.
Missing years and supplementary years:
Certain reports are missing from the series. The same gaps are found in the files at the Public Record Office, suggesting that there were origination or distribution difficulties for the years in question. The following are the missing reports: Muscat: 1917-18, 1920-21; Kuwait: 1933-34.
The following missing reports from the 1940s have been located and are included in this edition: Muscat: 1942-43, 1943-44; Bahrain: 1942-43, 1943-44; Kuwait: 1943-44.


Regular statistics:

  • Imports and exports showing quantities and values
  • Fine analysis into commodities and categories of article
  • Comparative tables showing increase and decrease
  • Tables showing destinations and sources of shipments
  • Tables showing tonnage of vessels

Narrative summaries:

  • General trade conditions
  • Banking and taxation
  • Communications and transport
  • Currency
  • Industry
  • Agriculture

Special features:

  • Muscat: population figures for major towns; development of agriculture; development of road transport; standard of living and employment
  • Bahrain: names of principal merchants and their trading commodities; pearl industry statistics; development of the oil industry; statistical data on increasing Japanese competition in relation to British and Indian trade
  • Kuwait: German interest during the pre-World War I period; the arms trade; boat building and fishing; trading and political relations with Saudi Arabia
  • Bushire: Although the India Office kept files of Bushire trade statistics throughout and immediately after the First World War, the port itself was a forwarding centre with very little trade of its own. By the 1920s the annual Bushire commercial reports had ceased to be of interest in the context of Arab Gulf trade. This edition presents an overview of economic development in the Arabian Gulf by reprinting the Bushire reports for the years 1905- 1924 together with four subsequent general interest reports on Gulf trade prepared by officials during the 1920s and 1930s: A Brief Summary of Trade in the Persian Gulf for the year 1924-1925, by A. J. Gardener, Vice-Consul, Bushire; Economic conditions in the Persian Gulf, by Lt-Commander Forester, Acting Vice-Consul, Bushire, 1929; Economic conditions in the Persian Gulf, by F. H. Gamble, Acting Vice-Consul, Bushire, 1935; Report on economic and commercial conditions in the Persian Gulf, by F. H. Todd, Vice-Consul, Bushire, 1937.