Date of Award

Summer 7-15-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Ian Christopher Fletcher


This study explores the “push-pull” dynamics of Shia migration from southwestern Iran (Fars, Khuzestan and the Persian Gulf coast) to Kuwait during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although nowadays Shias constitute thirty five percent of the Kuwaiti population and their historical role in building the state of Kuwait have been substantial, no individual study has delved into the causes of Shia migration from Iran to Kuwait. By analyzing the internal political, economic, and social conditions of both regions in the context of the Gulf sheikhdoms, the British and Ottoman empires, and other great powers interested in dominating the Gulf region, my thesis examines why Shia migrants, such as merchants, artisans and laborers left southwestern Iran and chose Kuwait as their final destination to settle. The two-way trade between southwest Iran and Kuwait provided a pathway for the Shia migrants and settlers into Kuwait. Moreover, by highlighting the economic roles of the Shia community in Kuwait, my thesis enhances our understanding of the foundation and contributions of the Shia community in Kuwait. Thus it fills a significant gap in Kuwaiti historiography. The research for this thesis draws from a variety of primary sources, including British government documents, the writing of western travelers, the Almatrook business archive, and oral-history interviews with descendants of Shia immigrants to Kuwait.


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