From the Archives is a blog series about Bahrain and its history. The stories told are drawn primarily from the records, documents, correspondences kept at the British National Archives and India Office archives.
This week, a smaller piece on the 1920s, with more to follow as a I read through the period. Enjoy this vignette.
The first eighty years of the Al Khalifa dynasty’s rule in Bahrain was chaotic and messy, a non-stop war. Mainland enemies threatened to invade the islands and take it from the Al Khalifa, who had themselves only wrestled it from the Persians in 1783. Once the dynasty’s lordship over the islands was finally, begrudgingly accepted by other rulers and states, it was not long before the fighting turned inwards, as it broke out between the ambitious brothers and cousins of the Sheikhly family.
That warring ended in 1869 after the latest bout of fratricide saw the murder of the latest Ruler, Ali bin Khalifa, at the hands of his brother and cousin. The British Political Agent intervened by enforcing a strict law of primogeniture (i.e., eldest son inherits) and propping up Isa, the young and orphaned son of the murdered Ali, as Ruler.
And Isa bin Ali ruled uncontested. Fifty-four years on though and the regime had reached an impasse. The British had been pressing Sheikh Isa to instigate reforms for a year and a half now: in late 1921, a deputation of Shia villagers handed the Political Agent, Major Daly, a petition demanding that something be done about the tyrannical feudal laws. Major Daly had duly sent it on to his superior, the Political Resident of the Gulf, Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor. Reform was necessary, it was decided by the British, but it would be far cleaner if the Bahrainis did it themselves. Together they had been trying to get a home-grown reform movement going. Continue reading