Kuwait History and Politics

By | June 3, 2021

The early history of what is now Kuwait

Great discoveries have been made on Failaka, the only still inhabited island in today’s Kuwait state. Based on archaeological finds, it is assumed that people lived there many thousands of years ago and that the island was an important port of call for sea trade in the 3rd millennium BC. Was.

At that time, of course, there was no state of Kuwait, we are only talking about the region in which something like a state slowly emerged much later in the 18th century.

In the 3rd century AD, the region came under the rule of the Persian Empire. In the 7th century, Islam was able to spread there, as it did on the entire Arabian Peninsula. The area belonged to the Abbasid Caliphate.

A state is formed

Kuwait’s history is closely linked to a tribe called Bani-Utbah, who settled in what is now the national territory in the 18th century. In 1718 the Sabah dynasty came to power. However, they did not yet have sole control of the country, but were subordinate to the Ottomans.

In 1756 the Al-Sabah family founded the city ​​of Kuwait on a bay in the Persian (Arab) Gulf, in 1899 the rulers at that time were able to break away from Ottoman power by accepting the protectorate of Great Britain. Great Britain granted Kuwait protection, which in return had to give up rights. A large part of Kuwait’s territory also fell to Saudi Arabia as part of this protection treaty.


The first oil deposits were discovered on Kuwaiti territory as early as the 1930s. The sheikh allowed the Americans and British to look for and extract oil here. Since the Second World War broke out shortly afterwards, the right production only began after the end of the war in 1946. In 1951 the Kuwait Oil Company was founded.

In 1950, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Sabah was the emir of Kuwait and thus not only held secular but also spiritual power. The expansion of the country was financed at the same time as the oil production and the associated high income.

Money was invested in the expansion of hospitals, schools and transport, and the money was used to benefit the population. However, the Sheikh didn’t live too badly with it. Kuwait is one of the founding members of OPEC, in which oil exporting countries have come together and see their interests represented here.


In 1961, Kuwait was declared independent and the British protectorate was thereby lifted. Kuwait was an emirate and succession was inherited. The sheikh had to allow a parliament, but it had almost no rights.

In the following times, this parliament was repeatedly dissolved by the respective emir. There were conflicts with Iraq over the borders. These conflicts were initially settled, but kept breaking out.

Kuwait during the First and Second Gulf Wars

The First Gulf War was the war between Iraq and Iran (see also Gulf War). The then emir supported Iraq and the then dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. But this should not be of any use to Kuwait, because in 1990 Kuwait attacked and occupied the country. At the same time he declared Kuwait to be the 19th province of Iraq.

However, this did not please the international community. Less because it was a question of protecting little Kuwait from the dictator Hussein than of not letting Kuwait’s not inconsiderable oil reserves fall into the hands of Iraq. They wanted to take advantage of this themselves. It happened in 1991 during the Second Gulf Warfor the liberation of Kuwait. The Iraqis had to withdraw, but they did not do so without destroying a large part of the oil fields. The result of the severe fires at the oil wells was a serious environmental disaster, the consequences of which can still be felt in Kuwait today.

In 1994 Iraq recognized the borders with Kuwait. The emir, who fled to Saudi Arabia after the occupation of his country, returned earlier. In 1992 there were new elections in Kuwait and a parliament was allowed again.

During the Third Gulf War against Iraq, Kuwait was an important military base for the Americans and the British. German troops were also sent to Kuwait.

Current political situation in Kuwait

In September 2020, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who had ruled the Kuwaiti state since 2006, died at the old age of 91. He also appeared very often as a diplomatic mediator in conflicts in the region. He was succeeded by his half-brother Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who was 83 years old when he came to power. He had already taken over some government affairs beforehand. In the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Kuwait people acted as mediators from the start. The late sheikh showed great diplomatic skills here, and many people in the region are now placing their hopes in his successor.

Kuwait is an autocratic one to this dayState that acts internally, if necessary with violence against critics. However, in comparison to other autocratic states in the region, at least one discussion is allowed.

Kuwait History