Compare and Contrast the Arabian Gulf under Ottomans and the British
Historically, the Arabian Gulf was in the epicenter of geopolitical struggle of different nations and empires. Paradoxically, being situated in a very profitable region, the states of the Arabian Gulf could hardly fully benefit from their geographical advantages since they had to constantly struggle with some external power that attempted to establish its own control in the region. In this respect, the last few hundred years are particularly noteworthy since within this period of time the states of the Arabian Gulf were mainly under the control of some other power that defined the development of the region, its socio-economic, political and even religious development. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that the impact of the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire had been extremely significant in the region within last few centuries. It is necessary to underline that the Ottoman Empire was one of the major world powers of the epoch when it invaded the Arabian Gulf and, naturally, it managed to totally subordinate practically all spheres of life of the states of the Arabian Gulf to its will. As for the British Empire, it was probably not so ambitious in the region since it was more concerned on the economic dominance in the region and its impact turned to be significantly weaker in socio-cultural and political domains than that of the Ottoman Empire, though its economic presence may be still observed in the region.
Ottomans and the British entering the Arabian Gulf Traditionally, the Arabian Gulf was the subject of the primary concern of the most powerful states that dominated in the region or even in the entire world. In this respect, the fact that Ottomans and the British eventually entered the Arabian Gulf does not seem to be illogical. In fact, it was rather a question of time for both empires to enter the region.
Speaking about the Ottoman and British Empires entering the Arabian Gulf, it is necessary to point out that both empires were extremely powerful at the moment. However, it is worthy of mention that the Ottoman Empire was on the peak of its power and the entering of the region was a part of the expansion of the empire. Remarkably, the entering of the Arabian Gulf marked the approaching apogee of the power of the Ottoman Empire after which the gradual decline of the empire had started.
As for the British Empire, it entered the region when its political, economic and military power was quite significant but still, it was not the Golden Age of the British Empire yet as it was in the case of the Ottoman Empire. This is probably why they entered the region in a different way compared to the Ottoman Empire. To put it more precisely, the Ottoman Empire entered the region by means of military aggression and the following occupation of the country. In this respect, it is necessary to underline that one of the strategic episodes in the Ottoman expansion in the region was 1535, when the empire took Baghdad from the Persians and gained control over Mesopotamia. Moreover, the defeat of the Persians also opened the naval access to the Persian Gulf to the Ottoman Empire. Gradually, Ottomans managed to establish its control over the region. In such a way, the Ottoman entering the region was accompanied by military invasion of the local states which became a part of the Ottoman Empire.
In contrast, the British entering the region was quite different that may be explained by different reasons. For instance, it was more problematic for British empire to send a large army to the region because it was geographically remote from the British Empire and, what is more, the British demonstrated their profound economic interests to the region. Initially, in 1763, the British Empire established its residence at Bushir in Persia by the British East India Company. Later, throughout the 19th century, the British Empire spread its influence on other countries of the region, including the United Arab Emirates, called ‘Trucial Coast States’ and Bahrain. It should be pointed out that British did not use military expansion as a major tool of their entering the region, though their power was quite significant and the local states could not actually resist to the British influence and gradually the British along with other Europeans replaced Ottomans in the region in the 19th century.
In such a way both empires entered the region and established their control but the Ottoman Empire basically relied on military power and attempted to unite the region politically, economically and ideologically, while the British empire primarily relied on its power to truce the region and develop economic relations. Reasons Ottomans and the British entered the Arabian Gulf Obviously, both the Ottoman and the British Empires considered the entering the Arabian Gulf its strategic goal and, basically, this goal was motivated by the imperial ambitions of both states. It is necessary to underline that both empires viewed the region as a strategically important area. In order to fully understand the reasons of the Ottoman and the British Empires to enter the Arabian Gulf, it is necessary to simply evaluate its significance for the region and entire world.
In this respect, it should be said that the Arabian Gulf always played an important role in economic, political and military development and balance in the world. First of all, it should be said that the Arabian Gulf played an important economic role in the international relations. In fact, the Arabian Gulf linked the West and the East. Consequently, the control over the region was not only strategically important but also extremely profitable to both empires. At this point, it is possible to remind that by the mid-16th century the economic position of the Ottoman Empire had started to deteriorate since Europeans had discovered the New World and the development of European fleet opened new opportunities for trade. In such a situation, the invasion of the Arabian Gulf could substantially increase benefits of the Ottoman Empire from international trade since important naval and land trade routes were situated there.
As for the British Empire, the region was also economically important since it practically linked its richest colonies in the East with Great Britain. Naturally, in such a situation, it was extremely important to the British Empire to control the Arabian Gulf since the transition of goods from and to India and other Eastern colonies could be easier, cheaper and faster than the transition around the African continent. In this respect, it is worthy of mention the building of the Suez Channel which facilitated the transportation and trade between Europe and Eastern states. In such a way, the British dominance in the region provided the empire with ample opportunities to control and benefit from the trade between Europe and the East. The same benefits the Ottoman Empire could enjoy as well.
On the other hand, it is worthy of mention that, for the Ottoman Empire, the Arabian Gulf was also important from military and political point of view since the empire needed stable states on its borders and, what is more, it needed to control the Arabian Gulf to feel secured from external expansion on the Eastern borders. In such a way, the Ottoman Empire simply secured its Easter borders and attempted to create stability in the region, which was traditionally characterized by numerous conflicts, and, consequently, the empire could benefit from such stability, growing trade, and progressing economy.
Changes Ottomans and the British made and the impact both powers made on the Arabian Gulf Naturally, the impact of the Ottoman and the British Empires could not remain unnoticed by the local states. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that it is quite difficult to objectively compare the changes both empires brought to the region. It should be said that the Ottoman Empire totally invaded the states of the Arabian Gulf but its political power in the region was rather formal than real since the local states sustained certain degree of sovereignty. On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire had a profound socio-cultural impact on the region since it enforced the position of Islam in the region making it practically the only dominant religion. Moreover, this religion and dominating ideology affected practically all spheres of life of the local population, regulating social life, establishing new traditions and customs, and even the private life of individuals.
However, the changes introduced by the Ottoman Empire could hardly be named radical since the Arabian Gulf states were culturally close to the empire. For instance, Islam traditionally played an important role in the region. On the other hand, the dominance of the Ottoman Empire brought peace to the region which was quite rare in the situation when different states competed for the leadership in the region.
As for the British Empire, it should be said that the changes introduced by the British basically related to economic sphere and economic relations. At the same time, similarly to the Ottoman Empire, the British attempted to trace the region and they attempted to maintain peace in the Arabian Gulf but, they did not really change the situation since their peacekeeping efforts were less successful compared to those of the Ottoman Empire probably because of the lack of military aggression which accompanied the Ottoman invasion of the region.
Furthermore, it should be said that the British Empire attempted to make the Arabian Gulf a kind of the transition point where different cultures of the West and East mixed up in the result of the growing economic activity. At the same time, the British Empire started to exploit the natural resources of the region and actually defined the economic profile of the region for decades to go even after the British formal retreat from the Arabian Gulf. For instance, to a significant extent, it is due to the British dominance in the region British companies, such as Shell, played the defining role in the development of the local gas and oil industry, which is the main industry till the present days.
In such a situation, it is quite difficult to define which of the empires produced a larger impact on the region. on the one hand, there was the Ottoman Empire which occupied the Arabian Gulf region and defined its future socio-cultural and political development. Its impact can be felt even at the present moment since the states of the Arabian Gulf maintain traditional despotic regimes typical for the Ottoman Empire. However, the impact of the Ottoman Empire was not so radical and sensitive to the local population because Ottomans were closer to the local population as they had similar culture, ethic and moral views, religious beliefs.
In stark contrast the British Empire was totally hostile in the cultural and religious aspect to the local population. British values were often unacceptable to the local population. Moreover, the British Empire exploited the region economically and its impact remains quite strong to the extent that it is even possible to estimate that it is the British impact that defined the current economic development of the region. However, it is worthy of mention that the British control in the region was not so total, at least there were other European competitors who attempted to influence the region.
At any rate, nowadays, it is obvious that the impact of the British Empire defines the present economy of the states of the Arabian Gulf, while the cultural and political impact of the Ottoman Empire was probably not so significant as economic impact of the British because the local states were close to the Ottoman cultural and political traditions.
Conclusion Thus, it is possible to conclude that the impact of both the Ottoman and British Empire was extremely significant on the Arabian Gulf. Even though the Ottoman invasion was accompanied by active military operations, Ottomans still was not totally hostile to the local population since their ideology and culture were close to people inhabiting the region. On the other hand, the British entered the region more peacefully, though they targeted practically at the same economic benefits that Ottomans did. However, the British impact was more sensitive to the local population since it brought new economic relations, a totally different ideology, political and cultural views which affected the Arabian Gulf dramatically.
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