Document Preview
  • Full Text
  • Scholarly Journal

The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf

; Washington Iss. 18,  (Sep 30, 1986): 142.

Full text preview

The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf, by Sultan Muhammad Al-Qasimi. London: Croom Helm, 1986. 233 pages. Bibliography to p. 238. Index to p. 244. pound sterling 25.00 cloth.

This excellent book takes a deep look at the maritime and political history of the Gulf during the period 1797 to 1820, with particular focus on the relationship of the East India Company and the British navy and political agents with the Qawasim nation in the Ras Al Khaimah-Sharjah territory.

Its avowed purpose is to dispute and disprove the position taken by the British at the time and subsequently supported by British historians, that the Qawasim were pirates endangering the commerce and political stability of the region, thus justifying various hostile British naval and marine actions. It is a fascinating piece of history which deals with issues in the Gulf almost 200 years ago which remain important today, such as the distinction between piracy and self-defense, the right of small and large nations alike to peaceful commerce and the tendency of the powerful to find moral and legal justifications for actions based on self-interest.

This book is particularly noteworthy because its author is a member of the Qawasim who is also the ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates. It is an expanded version of the dissertation he wrote for his Ph.D. degree, granted in 1985 by the University of Exeter, England.

Although particular attention is given to the issue of piracy and defending the historical reputation and intentions of the Qawasim, perhaps of more general importance is the author's overall assessment of the motivations and consequences of British involvement in the Gulf at that time. On pp. xiv-xv of the Introduction the general thesis of the book is summarized. I believe...