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Bahrein, British influence, Kingdom of Bahrain, Sunnis, Manama

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Bahrain or Bahrein, officially Kingdom of Bahrain, independent Arab nation in western Asia, part of the region known as the Middle East. Bahrain is made up of 36 islands on the western side of the Persian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia to the east and Qatar to the west. The main island, also known as Bahrain, is home to the country’s capital and largest city, Manama.

Bahrain entered recorded history about 5,000 years ago as a commercial trading center. Long under the influence of more powerful neighbors, it came under the domination of Iran in the 17th century. The al-Khalifa family, originating from the central Arabian Peninsula, established themselves as Bahrain’s rulers in 1783 and has ruled ever since. A series of treaties in the 19th century gave Britain control over Bahrain’s defense and foreign affairs. The British influence lasted until Bahrain became independent in 1971.

More than 60 percent of Bahrain’s population is native-born, in contrast to the populations of other Persian Gulf states such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, where foreign-born inhabitants outnumber the native population. Bahrain also differs from its neighbors in that the number of followers of Shia Islam in the country is more than double that of the adherents of Sunni Islam, which is the largest group of Muslims worldwide. The Sunnis control the country’s government, however.

In the 1930s Bahrain became the first Arab state in the Persian Gulf region to develop an oil-based economy, but by the early 1980s its oil fields were mostly depleted. However, the country had prepared for this change by investing in other industries, and its economy continues to prosper.


For younger readers

Cooper, Robert. Bahrain. Benchmark, 2000. In the Cultures of the World Series; for readers in grades 6 to 10.

Kort, Michael G. The Handbook of the Middle East. 21st Century, 2002. For readers in grades 7 and up.


Al-Khalifa, Shaikh A., and Michael Rice, eds. Bahrain through the Ages: The History. Routledge, 1993. Leading specialists uncover the archeological mysteries of Bahrain.

Crawford, Harriet, and others, eds. The Dilmun Temple at Saar: Bahrain and Its Archaeological Inheritance. Kegan Paul, 1997. An informative illustrated guide to Bahrain's key archeological site.

Metz, Helen Chapin, ed. Persian Gulf States: Country Studies. 3rd ed. Federal Research Division, L.O.C., 1994. Concise overview of the geography, history, politics, economics, and culture, with separate sections describing Bahrain.

Zahlan, Rosemarie Said, and Roger Owen. The Making of the Modern Gulf States: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Routledge, 1989. Ithaca, 1999. Comprehensive discussion of the creation of the Persian Gulf states.


Peck, Malcolm C., A.B., A.M., M.A., M.A.L.D., Ph.D. Program Officer, Meridian International Center. Author of Historical Dictionary of the Gulf Arab States and The United Arab Emirates: A Venture in Unity.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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