The Pirate Coast included the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi because this was where foreign ships were attacked by European and Arab pirates from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. In 1818, there was the British campaign against the pirates. For this reason, Britain concluded a treaty of peace to end piracy and plundering and desist from the slave trade. Consequently, there were taken actions to defend British marine routes. However, many historians insist that Britain followed its geopolitical interests and wanted to establish supremacy in the Pirate Coast. As a result, current essay intends to reveal the history of the Pirate Coast and its relationships with Britain.
The History of the Pirate Coast
Speaking about the history of the Pirate Coast, one should mention the interaction between the United Arab Emirates and Britain. At first, the area of the Pirate Coast was known as the Coast of Oman. It included the southern shores of the Gulf. The ruling families and principal cities were the following: Fujairah (Al Sharqi), Abu Dhabi (Al Nahyan), Ras al Khaimah (Al Qawasim), Dubai (Al Maktoum), Sharjah (Al Qawasim), Ajman (Al Nuaimi), and Umm Al-Qawain (Al Mualla). In the late eighteenth century, the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai were named ‘the Pirate Coast’ because their ships were attacked by the Al Qawasim tribe. The history of the Pirate Coast is debatable as Arab system was supposed to be related to piracy and extortion (“Country Profile: The United Arab Emirates,” 2007).
The British were the first who used the designation of the Pirate Coast around the 17th century. They related that name to the predatory nature of the Arab inhabitants. According to Edward Balfour, the Pirate Coast was the area between Bahrain and Khasab that occupied 350 miles. German explorers insisted that the Pirate Coast deserved its designation. Moreover, they stated that piracy was the main occupation of the local people. However, British treaties had changed the designation of the Pirate Coast making it the Trucial Coast.
Another important period in the history of the Pirate Coast was the interference of Britain that concluded treaties with the local tribes to cease marine war. Moreover, Britain promised to recognize ruling families and offer protection. However, the key challenge was that Britain followed its interests related to the Pirate Coast. The first Treaty against piracy was signed in 1820. It means that Britain wanted to become the governor of the affairs at the Pirate Coast. However, the treaty was useless. Consequently, Britain suggested Treaty of Perpetual Maritime Peace in 1853. In 1892, Britain signed Exclusivity agreement as the previous treaties did not bring any positive results. One should say that Britain was a key player in the history of the UAE. The Arabian side of the Gulf Coast was not peaceful even after treaties insisting on peace had been concluded. Moreover, it was evident that the Pirate Coast and tribes would find mutual agreement if Britain did not interfere (Stapley, n.d.).
Stapley (n.d.) writes:
For their part, the tribes involved believed the British would not interfere in the affairs of the Arabian Coast because, for several years prior to this, they had been too involved in events in Muscat to commit themselves to any military actions elsewhere, either on land or at sea.
Nobody denies that the Persian Gulf had been the source of piracy till the twentieth century. Consequently, that area was regarded as a primary threat to global marine trade routes. As India was the colony of Britain, those routes were important to it. Consequently, British India tried to stop piracy. However, there were other historians that believed that the historical instances of piracy were the cases of resistance by the Al Qasimi tribe. One should say that they were right as Britain bombarded Lingeh, Ras Al Khaimah, and other Al Qasimi ports to launch marine actions and mount the Persian Gulf campaign. One cannot justify the actions of pirates of the Pirate Coast. However, the actions of Britain were also related to the personal interests. “The conflict between the forces of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi against Qatar, which took place between 1867 and 1868, led to the establishment of formal political relations between Qatar and Great Britain,” writes Mark Hobbs (n.d.).
To understand the relations between the UAE and Britain at that time, one should address the book The Myth of Piracy in the Arabian Gulf written by the current ruler of Sharjah, Mohammed Al Qasimi. He insisted that Britain imposed imperialism, and the allegations of piracy were merely excuses to its actions. It means that both sides justified their actions. As for the UAE, it did not recognize the existence of the Pirate Coast. Britain, however, tried to hide its imperialistic objectives behind the struggle against piracy (Davidson, 2005).
The history clearly demonstrated the piratical activities in the Persian Gulf from the late eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. Moreover, not only Britain but other countries admitted the existence the Pirate Coast that occupied the territory of the modern Qatar and Oman. One should mention that the persistence of Britain helped to bring about changes with the help of the General Maritime Treaty and the Treaty of Maritime Peace. The Pirate Coast had become known as the Trucial Coast. At present, these are the United Arab Emirates (Davidson, 2005).
One should say that the reason for the flourishing of piracy in the Persian Gulf was the commercial decline of the Dilmun Civilization. Moreover, pirates attacked traders to steal their products. One should say that the efforts of the UAE rulers to wipe out the piracy were unsuccessful. Consequently, it is evident that piracy was a negative process of the ancient times, and it was unfair to object its existence. Moreover, the spread of piracy was related to the development of marine routes. The pirates attacked not only British ships but Iranian, Indian, and Chinese as those countries were the most successful traders. As a result, piracy in the Persian Gulf was difficult to root out. Moreover, it was not only Arabian piracy but European one that was widely spread in the Persian Gulf (Davidson, 2005).
Britain admitted piracy only in 1767 in the letter of the description of a Persian pirate. They named pirates the source of concerns for traders along the Persian Gulf. Moreover, the British indicated that piracy was a result of commercialization. One should mention that Britain also regarded the rulers of Qatar as the leading pirates. In 1810, Wahhabis was the ruler of Qatar. He was a leading pirate despite the fact that his ruling was short. Moreover, he was accused of the organized piracy. The Wahhabis implemented a well-organized system of raids on foreign ships. They plundered all vassal ships without exceptions provoking fear and threatening the decline of trade.
One should say that piracy was stopped with the help of the Persian Gulf campaign of 1809 that provoked renaming of the Pirate Coast into the Trucial Coast. However, it is clear that piracy was not rooted out immediately due to numerous outrages expressed by the British.
One should mention that the opinions of historians concerning the Pirate Coast differ. The British historians reinforced the evil of piracy in the Pirate Coast and named it the reason for marine war. The Arabian historians did not admit the existence of the extensive piracy. They insisted that Britain followed its imperial interests and called piracy a myth. Indian historians believed that piracy was widespread in the Persian Gulf. However, one should underline that the extended control of Britain was not less crucial in terms of the relationships with the Arabian inhabitants. A series of agreements were driven by a desire of Britain to save its reputation and imperial power. Moreover, Britain wanted to extend its control over the area of the Pirate Coast. Additionally, they imposed the Trucial system to put down piracy and ensure safe trading. Piracy was the key challenge for them. Consequently, the British defined it as a reason for a number of events.
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One should say that the history of the Pirate Coast is related to the history of the colonial Britain. It is evident that the Pirate Coast was the threat not only for Britain but also other countries trying to develop trade. The key moments in the history of the Pirate Coast were signing the treaties against piracy, Treaty of Perpetual Maritime Peace and Exclusivity agreement. The relationships between the Pirate Coast and Britain were not friendly as both sides followed personal interests. The history of the Pirate Coast is debatable due to the contradictions and opinions of historians regarding that area. One cannot reject the existence of piracy and its negative impact on the foreign trade and image of Qatar. However, one cannot object to the imperial influence of Britain that wanted to control the state of affairs in the Persian Gulf. To understand the history of the Pirate Coast, one should analyze it together with the British history.