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Slaves, Sheikhs, and Sovereignty: British Imperial Sovereignty versus a Sheikh’s Local Autonomy in the Trucial States in 1931

Author: Nicole J. Crisp (University of Arizona)

  • Slaves, Sheikhs, and Sovereignty: British Imperial Sovereignty versus a Sheikh’s Local Autonomy in the Trucial States in 1931

    Articles

    Slaves, Sheikhs, and Sovereignty: British Imperial Sovereignty versus a Sheikh’s Local Autonomy in the Trucial States in 1931

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Abstract

Focusing my study on one manumission case from early 1931 documented within the records of the British India Office, I argue that the conflict described within where the Sheikh of Sharjah sought to challenge British authority to manumit slaves in his town demonstrates issues of sovereignty and authority between the sheikh of Sharjah and the British Political Agent in Bushire stemming from the legal imperialism of Britain embedded within the treaties signed between the two political actors. In the anti-slavery clauses of these treaties, Britain held the right to manumit slaves hailing from the Trucial states. However, in the case under review, the enactment of this right led to push back from the sheikh and a slave owner in the form of armed protest outside the British Resident Agent’s home in Sharjah. This, in turn, led to British demand for restitution in the form of fines, threatening to destroy a nearby tower if left unpaid. In my opinion, this case also demonstrates the role of the Resident Agent as an inter-state intermediary whose position can be described as trans-jurisdictional as he often worked in favor of the local slave owners within the Trucial states as much as he worked for and was considered an advisor by British officialdom in the Persian Gulf. I further argue that British intervention in the Arabian Sea constituted legal imperialism despite the lack of outright colonization of the Trucial sheikhdoms because the basis of Britain’s claims rested upon the enactment of several treaties and the implicit recognition of the claims by the growingly influential international community.

How to Cite:

Crisp, N. J., (2019) “Slaves, Sheikhs, and Sovereignty: British Imperial Sovereignty versus a Sheikh’s Local Autonomy in the Trucial States in 1931”, Footnotes: A Journal of History 3, p.51-65.

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Published on
20 May 2019
Peer Reviewed