Dubai 1910 Incident

23.06.2020 in Research Paper
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In 1853, the Trucial sheikhdoms signed a treaty with the British and agreed that disputes among the Sheikhs became referred to the British administration for settlement. The enforcement of the agreement was conducted entirely under the preview of the British colonial headquarters in Delhi (Abdullah, 1978). Despite the treaty signed by the parties, the British were not actively involved in the matters of the Sheikhs’ lands. During this period, the Dubai economy was driven by the pearling industry. The independence of India led to the shift of the mining enforcement agreement to a foreign office in London. The British anxiety arose in both Britain and India because the British had suspected the French, Germans, and Russians in the attempts of establishing naval bases in the Persian Gulf. Thus, in 1898, the French occupied Bandar Jissah, while Russians occupied Shabar in the 1890s, and the Germans – Baghdad in Kuwait (Hurewitz, 1972). This misunderstanding affected the British policy on the Trucial Coast. The policies prevented any political powers from gaining access and conducting commercial activities due to an increase in supervision and vigilance.

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Cause of 1910 Incident

The tension between the Sheikh of Dubai and the British led to a gun battle in 1910 that resulted in the loss of numerous lives. According to Onley (2005), the fight resulted in long-term damage to the relationship of between the locals of the Trucial Coast and the British. Thus, the tension between the British political residents in the Persian Gulf, Lieutenant Percy, lack of alliance between the Germans, Russians, and the Sheikh of Dubai over the suspension of trading in local arms and naval patrol caused the war.

There existed a difference in the attitude and opinion between the foreign office and Indian office concerning the local affairs and Dubai relationship with Persians and Ottomans. In 1902, the establishment of the missing link became possible through selecting a committee of imperial defence to deal with the strategic significance of Musandam to the British colony (Hurewitz, 1972). The reopening of the French consulate at Muscat ruptured the relationship between the British and the Muscat because of the French intimate relationship with the sultan. Between 1895 and 1899, French activities influenced Zayed, a close friend of the Sultan.

In 1900, a retired French diplomat Goguyer, who knew Arabic fluently from Tunisia, established his arms business in Muscat. The French diplomat took Amushid al-Albab and spread religious conflicting post in India, Dubai, and the Gulf to insight the citizens against the British (Said, 1970). The arms trade existed only between the British and the French in the 1880s, but by 1898, the British realised that the weapons trade had caused a conflict on the Indian border. Thus, the British stopped the trade of weapons, but Goguyer insisted on continuing with the business (Abdullah, 1978). The French did not take a keen interest in ending the arms trade because the British conducted a similar illegal trade in Morocco, thus allowing the infiltration of firearms via Algerian frontiers.

The blockage of the arms became misinterpreted by the Arabs. Thus, they misinterpreted the reason for blockage as the prevention of weapons trade was gradual disarmament to allow for stress-free partition of Dubai (Abdullah, 1978). Moreover, Arabs had to reason why the British had used the procedure and why the British had wanted them to ensure that arms were not brought to the British territory. They never understood why Muscat had become protected by foreign powers and why arms had become prohibited in Dubai. They wanted the arms for the security of life and property while the British viewed the possession of weapons as a threat to their colony (Onley, 2005). The anti-British campaigns aided the Arabs’ rebellion, and the pan- Islamic propaganda undermined the British culture. Furthermore, the Sheikh of Dubai became frustrated with the British political officers for installing a telegraph and a post office despite understanding the need by the British to tighten the security of the port (Abdullah, 1978).

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The Incident

New information leakage came about in December 1910. The British insisted that they were going to stop the entry of arms in Dubai with or without the help of the Sheikh Butti of Dubai. The British burned boats and blocked roads to inspect the cargo. In 1910, the British political residents became concerned with the trade of illegal firearms that passed through the Persian Gulf in the northwest boundary of India on their way to Muscat. The British mounted the naval patrol in the Persian Gulf to counter the trade due to the use of the arms by Afghans to raid the British territory (Hurewitz, 1972). The vessel called the Hyacinth took part in the patrol at the Trucial coast. The captain of the Hyacinth informed the Sheikh of Dubai Butti bin Suhayl Al Maktum of his intention to mount a search in two buildings in town. Sheikh Butti failed to attend the meeting with the captain. The latter and his team continued with the search without the Sheikh of Dubai’s approval; they searched a suspicious house in town where they had found three rifles. The captain’s team decided to continue to the next house where they had encountered citizens with guns. After deaths of Arabs and the British citizens in the war that could have turned into a massacre, the Sheikh of Dubai accused the British of hostility, refusing to follow British command and erecting British pole.

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Strategies That Could Have Prevented the 1910 Incident in Dubai

The British could have communicated their security policies to the Sheikh of Dubai to avoid misunderstanding. Lack of communication and listening contributed to the misunderstanding. Holden (1971) states that the British took security measures to search Arabs’ houses without the approval of the Sheikh of Dubai, thereby causing mistrust and misunderstanding between the two parties. According to O’Neil (1986), developing a mutual strategy between the British and the Sheikh on how to protect Dubai from the Russians, the French, and the Germans could have shown the involvement of Arabs protecting their life and property that could have prevented their protest against the British. Captain of the Hyacinth installed telegram and post office at Trucial coast without informing the Sheikh on the measures the British undertook (Holden, 1971). Thus, the British strategy was good, but due to lack of communication, the Sheikh misunderstood them and decided not to obey the British treaty.

The British should have made alliances not only with the French but also with other powerful nations. Thus, the Germans and the Russians in Kuwait and Shabar undermined the British rule in Dubai when they looked for railway passage and conducted commercial trade with Dubai (Davidson, 2007). The two powers sold arms to the Arabs who undermined the British rule through constant raids (Davidson, 2008). Moreover, despite the alliance between the French and the British, the French tolerated the sales of arms to Dubai after the British struggle to stop the trade because the British did the same in Morocco via Algeria frontier.

The British could have learned and understood the Arabs’ way of life to enhance good governance. Guyer, the French diplomat at Muscat, won the people of Dubai at Trucial Coast because he understood the Arab culture. According to Davidson (2008), had the British followed the Arab culture, they could have evaded the pan-Islamic propaganda that led to rebellion. The British could have protected Dubai by providing its citizens with a means to protect their property and life (Bose, 1997). Sheikh Butti misunderstood why Muscat had possessed arms and why they had been denied the right to trade on guns without proper explanation from the British.


To conclude, misunderstanding between the colonial powers and native country affected the relationship between the British and Dubai. Constant communication when handling activities between the colonial powers and leaders of the county help in reducing misunderstanding that may result in war. Forming an effective alliance plays an important role for colonial powers. The alliance between the British and the French was not effective because the British had sold weapons to the Moroccans and the French tolerated arms trade in Dubai regardless of the two powers stopping the trade.

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