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Britain’s decision to withdraw from the Persian Gulf: a pattern not a puzzle

Smith, Simon C.



The reasons for the British decision to withdraw from the Gulf are highly contentious. While some scholars have focused on short-term considerations, especially the devaluation of sterling towards the end of 1967, in the British determination to quit the Gulf, others have concentrated on longer-term trends in British policy-making for the region. This article sides with the latter. Britain's Gulf role came under increasing scrutiny following the 1956 Suez crisis as part of an ongoing debate about the costs and benefits of Britain's Gulf presence. In this sense, British withdrawal fitted into a wider pattern of British decolonisation. By the 1960s, the Treasury, in particular, strongly questioned the necessity and cost-effectiveness of the maintenance of empire in the Gulf to safeguard British economic interests there. Recent interpretations which seek to disaggregate the British decision to leave Southeast Asia from the decision to depart from the Gulf are also questionable. By mid-1967, it had already been determined that Britain would leave both regions by the mid-1970s, the only difference being that this decision was formally announced with respect to Southeast Asia, but not with regard to the Gulf. The devaluation of sterling in November 1967, therefore, merely hastened and facilitated decisions which had already been taken. Despite the end of formal empire in the Gulf, Britain did seek, not always successfully, to preserve its interests into the 1970s and beyond.


Smith, S. C. (2016). Britain’s decision to withdraw from the Persian Gulf: a pattern not a puzzle. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 44(2), 328-351.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 4, 2014
Online Publication Date Dec 8, 2015
Publication Date Mar 3, 2016
Deposit Date Apr 12, 2016
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2016
Journal Journal of imperial and Commonwealth history
Print ISSN 0308-6534
Electronic ISSN 1743-9329
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 2
Pages 328-351
Keywords British decolonisation, Persian Gulf, Sterling, Devaluation, Suez crisis
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:


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