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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎2r] (3/62)

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The record is made up of 1 file (31 folios). It was created in 10 Mar 1904-19 Jun 1918. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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No. 63 Of 1904.
The Right H on'ble St. JOHN BRODRICK,
His Majesty's Secretary of State for India.
Fort William, the 10th March 1904.
In the course of our recent examination of problems connected with
the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. , the question of the pearl-fisheries that have so long existed
there has come under our notice. Important questions, both of policy and
international law, are involved; and although none ol these has fortunately
hitherto assumed an acute shape, it seems to us desirable that the matter should
be considered now, in order that we may know how to act should any sudden
expected development occur. We, therefore, address you on the subject.
— 2. The approximate limits of the pearling grounds in the neighbourhood
of tli/Arab littoral are indicated on the enclosed copy of a chart of the
O# In addition to those marked, there are also shoals in the neighbourhood
^ of Kharak Island and at other points along the Persian coast, which are
rejdarly exploited and frequently yield considerable returns. We are
immediately concerned, however, only with those lying on the Arabian side
of the Gulf. Along this coast lie the territories of the several Trucial Chiefs,
the peninsula of El Katr, the island of Bahrein, the Turkish province of El
I Hassa, and the domains of the Sheikh of Koweit. The pearl banks appear from
time immemorial to have been open, without distinction, to the Arabs of the
entire littoral; and though there are no definite inter-tribal limits, the external
boundaries of the fisheries are well known. Intrusion is resented ; the principal
[Hffiiefs have in the past expressed the view that the fisheries are common
pro pertv and that no Chief has, therefore, the right to grant any concession
^Kutside parties; and believing as they do that the shallower waters are
IBpendent on the deeper for their supply of shells, their objections relate not
to interference on the shoals which are habitually fished by their dependents,
but' alsC to the exploitation of the deeper waters beyond.
[ 3 His Majesty's Government are aware of the clos^ relations which exist
between the Arabs of this coast and the Indian Government. Since 1843 we have
held from the Trucial Chiefs agreements to refrain from any breach of the peace
at sea, and in 1892 the Sheikhs concluded fresh compacts binding themselves not
to enter into anv agreement or correspondence with any Power other than the
^Kish Government; not to consent, except with the permission of the British
(lOvernment, to the residence within their territories ol the Agent of any other
State • and not to cede, sell, mortgage, or otherwise give occupation of any portion
of their territories, save to the British Government. In respect of El Katr we
have at present no formal Conventions. We have declined, however, to recognise
Turkish pretensions on the peninsula, and the leading Chief has on more than one
occasion approached our officers in the Gulf with a request that he may be
admitted t^closer relations with the Indian Government. Bahrein has lor long
been to all intents and purposes, a British protectorate ; while in the case
of Koweit, though the Turks have laid claim to certain ill-dehntd rights of
sovereignty we have always asserted that the Sheikh enjoys a Targe measure
■ practical independence, and His Majesty^ Government have promised him
Hfcr o-ood offices. The maintenance of the maritime peace in the Gult is an

About this item


The contents of the file relate to the British Government’s concerns over growing British and international interest in the Gulf’s pearling industry, hitherto almost exclusively exploited by the region’s indigenous inhabitants.

1) The first half of the file (folios 2-13) comprises copies of Government of India correspondence published in 1904 and 1905, which discuss Britain’s historic role in the Gulf in relation to the pearling industry. Themes covered include: Britain’s duty to protect the pearl banks for the benefit of the Arab pearl divers, acknowledgement of growing national and international interest in the pearl banks, the extent of territorial waters, and the likely result of any legal challenges to Britain’s refusal to allow foreign interests the opportunity to exploit the Gulf’s pearl banks.

2) Correspondence relating to an enquiry by a German businessman, concerning the pearl trade in the Gulf (folios 15-17).

3) Printed copies of correspondence (folios 20-23) from the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. Political Resident A senior ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul General) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Residency. (Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Cox) and the Bahrain Political Agent A mid-ranking political representative (equivalent to a Consul) from the diplomatic corps of the Government of India or one of its subordinate provincial governments, in charge of a Political Agency. (Captain Charles Mackenzie), dated 1910, concerning the increasing trade in oyster shells in the Gulf, used for the production of mother of pearl. A drop in the numbers of oysters being fished is attributed to the mother of pearl industry. A German firm based in Bahrain, Wonckhaus & Co., is identified as a key exporter of oyster shells at Bahrain.

4) A letter (folio 27) intercepted by the Political Agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. in Bahrain, from the Secretary of the Wolverine Motor Works, U.S.A., to Robert Wonckhaus & Co., dated 3 February 1915. The letter and accompanying leaflet (folios 28-29) relates to Wolverine Motor Works’ new combined compressor and propelling motor, designed specifically for use in the pearl fishing industry.

5) A typewritten extract from the Times of India Illustrated , dated 19 [month missing, presumed June] 1918 (folio 30) reporting on rumours that German financiers are buying up all the pearls available in Britain and France.

Extent and format
1 file (31 folios)

The contents of the file have been arranged in approximate chronological order, running from the earliest items at the front of the file to the latest at the end.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: The file is foliated from its front cover to inside back cover, using circled pencil numbers in the top-right corner of each recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. . There is an additional pagination system running throughout the file.

Folio 29 is a fold-out.

There is minor insect damage to papers throughout the file.

Written in
English in Latin script
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'File A/5 Pearl fisheries of Persian Gulf' [‎2r] (3/62), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/3, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 17 February 2020]

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