Britain's decision to withdraw from the Persian Gulf, 1964-68: A pattern and a puzzle

Shohei Sato*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Can we comprehend the end of the British Empire as a planned and logical process, or was it an accumulation of improvised decisions? Britain exercised significant influence over the southern coast of the Persian Gulf from the nineteenth century until January 1968, when it announced that it would withdraw its troops from the region. This withdrawal marked an end to Britain's overt influence in the Gulf, and led to the eventual emergence of Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as full members of international society. This paper examines Britain's decision-making process that led to the withdrawal announcement. It argues that the withdrawal option was put under the spotlight in the context of the long-term economic retrenchment and rise of anti-imperialist voices, but that the final decision was inspired largely by contingent domestic political considerations. In contrast to the prevailing view that the withdrawal decision was taken by July 1967 as a result of Britain's effort to bring the ends of its foreign policy into line with the means, this paper highlights the more spontaneous aspect of the whole process. An examination of the sources suggests that the decision was reached only a few days before the announcement in January 1968, more as a justification for reducing domestic social expenditure than as a foreign policy initiative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-117
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Britain's decision to withdraw from the Persian Gulf, 1964-68: A pattern and a puzzle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this