The present day United Arab Emirates was previously referred to as the Trucial States. The article I reviewed, “Lord Curzon’s Tour” (1903) in The Times gives an account of Lord Curzon’s durbar in Sharjah aboard the Argonaut on the 21st of November, 1903. Lord George Curzon was the Viceroy of India which formed the part of the great British Empire. The article gives an outline of the Viceroy’s address to invited guests and rulers of the Trucial States. It also highlights other issues that Lord Curzon mentioned during the durbar. These problems included trade relation between the Persian Gulf and India in addition to the extension of the telegraph to Bandar Abbas. The article names Trucial States rulers in attendance of the meeting as the chiefs of Abu- Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman and the chief of Umulkawain’s son (“Lord Curzon’s Tour,” 1903).
According to the article, Lord Curzon delivered a speech in the presence of the invited representatives of royal family as well as other guests. He stated that the main aim of his visit was to reassure the chiefs that they had not been forgotten by the Government of India which was in essence the British Government. He also spoke about events leading to British involvement in the matters related to the Trucial States. From the 19th century British naval and military operations at the Pirate Coast led to the signing of treaties ensuring that peace would prevail in the region. Curzon continued to remind the rulers that they were not permitted to sign any agreement with any other foreign power apart from the British Government. They were also forbidden to grant access to any agent from another state into their regions or cede any territory to them. Curzon promised the guests in attendance that loyalty to these terms would guarantee that their rights would not be violated. Lord Curzon ended his speech by the statement that the superiority of the British Empire should be preserved Lord Curzon’s durbar also addressed the extension of the telegraph to Bandar Abbas as well as trade matters related to the Persian Gulf and India, namely, the deputation of British Indian traders. He believed that this would be beneficial in the long run to both regions, especially if they found a way to work together in harmony (“Lord Curzon’s Tour,” 1903).
The article is not just “news” or “facts”; it is an overview of an actual historical event that took place in Sharjah. The summary of the speech that Lord Curzon presented to those who were present at his durbar is an accurate representation of his public address. Rich (2009) described Lord Curzon’s visit as the most magnificent event that occurred in the Gulf. Additionally, he provided an extract of the Viceroy’s speech (p. 272). This extract, therefore, lends authenticity to the correspondent’s account of Lord Curzon’s speech. The only aspect that I found missing in this article is not mentioning anything about the tone of Curzon. The actual speech did not have the shade of equality and mutual respect as was portrayed by the correspondent. In my view, it humiliated the dignity of the Gulf rulers who were present. It is evident that the British were firmly in control of the region, and they dictated their interaction with other powers. The Viceroy, even through diplomatic statements, was in fact issuing hidden threats to the rulers at the event. This occurred due to the fact that the latter based their alliance to the British Empire on their stopped interactions with foreign powers. I view this as the portrayal of the British Empire’s attempt to protect their interests in the region at the expense of those who should have received advantages of any gains made by them (Rich, 2009, p.273).
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Lord Curzon’s visit to the Gulf was an effort to consolidate British influence and power in the region. To my mind, this speech was also aimed at giving the guests the impression that they were fully dependent on the British as the latter had saved them from being destroyed by their neighbors. This is mentioned in the speech of Lord Curzon when tells the chiefs that the British saved them from extinction at the hands of their neighbors (Rich, 2009, p.272). The chiefs might have a limited influence in their regions which, unfortunately, did not extend to the entire Gulf region. Therefore, they were mere puppets of the British Administration because of the inability to exercise their authority effectively without interference from the British. This was in addition to the fear of consequences from displeasing the British Administration by not honoring agreements between two sides.
During the durbar, Lord Curzon talked about the deputation of British Indian traders at Bandar Abbas. This gave an insight into Lord Curzon’s shrewd nature when it came to conflict resolution (“Lord Curzon’s Tour,” 1903). From the article, is seems that this issue was not well received in the Gulf region and the areas where the Indian traders were located. He was able to vividly explain to those in attendance the interdependence of India and the Persian Gulf in terms of trade. Therefore, the British Indian traders were engaged in trade that was not only beneficial to them, but also to the Persian Gulf. The speaker was also able to demonstrate how Persia had sent trade agents to Indian ports, thus, continuing the old trade relations between India and the Gulf that lasted for centuries (“Lord Curzon’s Tour,” 1903). I believe this was a clear demonstration of why he was the chief diplomat of the British Empire. The speech also proved that he was an effective leader.
As for me, the durbar and the Viceroy’s address was a clear display of the British impunity in regions that were under their control. Despite the fact that they were able to bring peace to the region due to their mighty military presence, their help did not have to be used to hold the Gulf region ransom to their advantage.
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