During the Ubaid period (6500 BC), Kuwait was the focal point of contact between Mesopotamian and Neolithic Eastern Arabian peoples, concentrated mostly in As-Subiya in northern Kuwait. The oldest evidence of human settlement in Kuwait was discovered at Burgan around 8000 B.C., when Mesolithic implements were discovered. As-Subiya in northern Kuwait is the Persian Gulf basin’s first indication of urbanism. In the year 2000 B.C., Mesopotamians arrived to the Kuwaiti island of Failaka. Traders from the Sumerian city of Ur operated a commercial enterprise in Failaka. The island has numerous Mesopotamian-style structures dating from about 2000 B.C., similar to those seen in Iraq. Kuwait’s Neolithic people were among the world’s first marine merchants. One of the world’s oldest reed-boats, dating back to the Ubaid era, was found in northern Kuwait.
Under Alexander the Great, the ancient Greeks inhabited Kuwait’s harbor in the third century BC, naming mainland Kuwait Larissa and Failaka Ikaros.
Alexander the Great called Failaka Ikaros because it resembled the Aegean island of the same name in size and form, according to Strabo and Arrian. A huge Hellenistic fort and Greek temples are among the remnants of Greek occupation.
Kuwait became a province of the Sassanid Empire in 224 AD. Kuwait was known as Meshan under the Sassanid Empire, which was an alternate name for the kingdom of Characene. Akkaz was a Partho-Sassanian site; the tower of silence of the Sassanid religion was found in northern Akkaz.
Kuwait was under Portuguese rule in 1521. The Portuguese established a defensive colony in Kuwait in the late 16th century.
In modern-day Kuwait City, the town of Kuwait was established in 1613. The Bani Utubs arrived in Kuwait in 1716, which was populated by a few fisherman and mainly functioned as a fishing hamlet at the time. Kuwait flourished in the eighteenth century, quickly becoming the primary commercial hub for the passage of commodities between India, Muscat, Baghdad, and Arabia. Kuwait had already established itself as the main trade route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo by the mid-1700s.
During the Persian siege of Basra in 1775–79, Iraqi merchants sought shelter in Kuwait and helped to expand the country’s boat-building and trade operations. As a consequence, Kuwait’s marine trade expanded dramatically. The Indian trade routes to Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna, and Constantinople were redirected to Kuwait between 1775 and 1779. In 1792, the East India Company was redirected to Kuwait. The East India Company established maritime connections connecting Kuwait, India, and Africa’s east coasts. After the Persians left Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to draw commerce away from the city.
Kuwait was the Persian Gulf region’s boat manufacturing hub. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, boats built in Kuwait transported the majority of commerce between India, East Africa, and the Red Sea. Kuwaiti ships were well-known all across the Indian Ocean. Regional geopolitical turmoil aided Kuwait’s economic growth in the second half of the 18th century. Kuwait prospered as a result of the late-nineteenth-century turmoil in Basra. Kuwait served as a refuge for Basra merchants escaping Ottoman government persecution in the late 18th century. Kuwaitis, according to Palgrave, have earned a reputation as the finest sailors in the Persian Gulf.
Due to serious threats to Kuwait’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, the Sheikhdom of Kuwait became a British protectorate in 1899 (until 1961) when the Anglo-Kuwaiti agreement of 1899 was signed between Sheikh Mubarak Al Sabah and the British administration in India.
Following the 1919–20 Kuwait–Najd War, Ibn Saud placed a trade embargo on Kuwait from 1923 until 1937. The Saudi economic and military assaults on Kuwait were intended to acquire as much of Kuwait’s land as possible. The borders of Kuwait and Najd were established during the Uqair conference in 1922. Kuwait did not send anybody to the Uqair meeting. Sir Percy Cox agreed to grant Ibn Saud two-thirds of Kuwait’s land. Uqair was responsible for the loss of more than half of Kuwait. Kuwait was still subjected to a Saudi economic embargo and occasional Saudi raids after the Uqair summit.
Beginning in the late 1920s, the Great Depression damaged Kuwait’s economy. Prior to the discovery of oil, one of Kuwait’s major sources of revenue was international trade. The majority of Kuwaiti traders were intermediate merchants. Kuwait’s economy suffered as a consequence of the decrease in European demand for products from India and Africa. Because of the decrease in international commerce, there has been an upsurge in gold smuggling by Kuwaiti ships to India. Some Kuwaiti merchant families got wealthy as a result of this smuggling. Kuwait’s pearl business also failed as a consequence of the global economic downturn. At its peak, Kuwait’s pearl business dominated the world’s luxury market, sending out between 750 and 800 ships on a monthly basis to satisfy the European elite’s demand for pearls. During the Great Depression, luxury such as pearls were in short supply. The Japanese development of cultivated pearls also led to Kuwait’s pearl industry’s demise.
Golden Era (1946–82)
Kuwait enjoyed a period of prosperity from 1946 until 1982, fueled by oil and its liberal environment. In common parlance, the years 1946 to 1982 are referred regarded as the “Golden Era.” In 1950, a massive public-works program was launched to provide Kuwaitis with a contemporary quality of life. By 1952, the nation had surpassed Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil exporter in the Persian Gulf area. This rapid expansion attracted a large number of foreign laborers, particularly from Palestine, Egypt, and India. Kuwait gained independence from the British protectorate in June 1961, and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah was appointed Emir. Kuwait conducted its first parliamentary elections in 1963 under the provisions of the newly written constitution. Kuwait was the first of the Persian Gulf Arab nations to adopt a constitution and a parliament.
Kuwait was the most developed nation in the area throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Kuwait was a Middle Eastern pioneer in diversifying its revenues away from oil exports. The Kuwait Investment Authority was the first sovereign wealth fund in the world. Kuwait ranked first among Arab nations on the Human Development Index beginning in the 1970s. Kuwait University was founded in 1966. The theatrical business in Kuwait was well-known across the Arab world.
Kuwait’s press was regarded as one of the freest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s. Kuwait was a forerunner in the Arab literary renaissance. Al Arabimagazine was founded in 1958 and went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world. Many Arab authors relocated to Kuwait because it provided them with more freedom of speech than the rest of the Arab world. In the 1970s, Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar fled Iraq for the more free atmosphere of Kuwait.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Kuwaiti culture adopted liberal and Western ideas. In the 1960s and 1970s, most Kuwaiti women did not wear the hijab, and at Kuwait University, miniskirts were more popular than the hijab.
1982 to present day
Kuwait suffered a severe economic crisis in the early 1980s as a result of the Souk Al-Manakh stock market collapse and a drop in oil prices.
Kuwait backed Iraq during the Iran-Iraq conflict. Numerous terror incidents occurred in Kuwait throughout the 1980s, including the 1983 Kuwait bombings, the hijacking of several Kuwait Airways aircraft, and the attempted murder of Emir Jaber in 1985. Kuwait was a regional center of science and technology in the 1960s and 1970s, but the scientific research industry suffered severely as a result of terror attacks until the early 1980s.
Following the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait turned down an Iraqi request to erase its US$65 billion debt. After Kuwait boosted its oil output by 40%, the two nations developed an economic competition. Tensions between the two nations became even higher in July 1990, when Iraq protested to OPEC that Kuwait was taking oil from a field near the border by slant drilling the Rumaila field.
Iraqi troops attacked and occupied Kuwait in August 1990. Following a series of unsuccessful diplomatic talks, the United States organized a coalition to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait, resulting in the Gulf War. The coalition was successful in forcing the Iraqi troops out on February 26, 1991. As they withdrew, Iraqi troops used a scorched earth strategy, setting fire to oil wells. More than 1,000 Kuwaiti citizens were murdered during the Iraqi occupation. Furthermore, about 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq’s occupation, with roughly 375 bodies discovered in mass graves in Iraq.
Kuwait became the launchpad for the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Following the death of Emir Jaber in January 2006, Saad Al-Sabah replaced him, but was deposed by the Kuwaiti parliament nine days later due to his failing health. Emir Sabah Al-Sabah was sworn in.
Kuwait earned the highest Human Development Index rating in the Arab world from 2001 to 2009. Women gained the right to vote and run in elections in 2005. Kuwait was rated top among Arab nations in the Global Gender Gap Report in 2014 and 2015. Women outnumber males in the labor force in Kuwait. A suicide bombing occurred in a mosque in June 2015. It was Kuwait’s biggest terror assault in its history.