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GUST Hosts Discussion On Life in Kuwait before the Discovery of Oil

12 April 2017

Gulf University for Science and Technology’s (GUST) Global Studies Center (GSC) today announces that it hosted a lecture led by Dr. Philippe Pétrait for students and the general public, entitled “Kuwait in the Middle East Before Oil: A History of Overland Trade from and to Kuwait”.  The lecture, organized in coordination with CEFAS (Centre Français d'Archeologie et de Sciences Sociales – French Center for Archaeology and Social Sciences and took place on its campus.


Dr. Pétrait, who earned his PhD from Panthéon-Sorbonne University on the topic of “The Important Hadhrami merchant families of the Hijaz”, also holds two masters’ degrees from the same university in Contemporary History of Arab Societies, with dissertations on the Hadhrami riots of 1858 in Jeddah and the Establishment of the Borders of Kuwait. 


His lecture at GUST shed light on how even before the oil transformation and long before the revival of the Silk Road trade route in Subbiya, Kuwait played a crucial part in regional integration. Not only was its harbour an important trading centre for the whole Indian Ocean and the Gulf, but its market was also a key node for land trade that extended all the way up to Syria and the Mediterranean. The lecture also examined the economic position of Kuwait in the Middle East before the discovery of oil, and how this then shaped the link between the trade and the foreign policy of Kuwait from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.  The discussion was then followed by a lively Q&A session whereby attendees probed Dr. Petrait on the points he presented.


Head of the Global Studies Center at GUST, Dr. Martin Rosenstock, said, “Kuwait today is closely associated with the oil economy. Today's lecture provides an insight into the complex economy that existed here before the advent of the commodity, and shows the historical importance of Kuwait in the Gulf region.”


The GSC was founded in 2015 in partnership with the National University of Singapore, and aims to conduct cutting-edge research on cross-national political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental issues of critical importance, as well as share research output and information regionally and globally.  It seeks to foster public understanding of global issues and support the policy-making processes of concerned states. 


Previous events hosted by the GSC include a discussion to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, sponsored by the US Embassy in Kuwait, a lecture by Dr. Peter Sluglett, an expert on Middle Eastern history and Director of the Middle East Institute at NUS, entitled: “An Improvement on Colonialism? The ‘A’ Mandates and their Legacy in the Middle East”, and another by Dr. Daniel Brumberg, the Kuwait Program Visiting Professor at the Paris School of International Affairs, on US-Arab Relations in a Time of Crisis.