The Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf


The Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf is a collection of the notes of S.B. Miles, longtime British official in the Persian Gulf generally and Oman in particular. They were compiled and published posthumously, first in 1919, and reprinted several times later. This account of Oman’s political history is still widely consulted and quoted. Miles covers pre-Islamic history, pointing out that from the very earliest times the inhabitants were masters of maritime commerce. Trade included slaves, spices, gold, precious stones, and textiles from Asia and Africa. Miles consults as well as critiques al-Izkiwi’s Kashf al-ghummah (Removing consternation) for the post-Biblical, pre-Islamic story of Oman. The second chapter deals with Islamic Oman and the eastern Arabian Peninsula. He departs from strict narrative based on Kashf al-ghummah and other Arab sources to note that the Prophet Muhammad “is entitled to applause, veneration and gratitude of the world” as a great lawgiver. In the author’s view the task of converting Oman’s Christian inhabitants to Islam was simplified because Christianity was “weighed down and encumbered by the character and example of some of its churchmen.” Miles then covers Persian Gulf trade and politics from the 16th century, as European powers Portugal, Holland, and Britain entered the region, and there is a chapter on the history of Oman’s place in the East‒West trading patterns from earliest times. He then turns to the Yaruba dynasty, which ruled Oman for about 125 years from 1624. He devotes the second volume to the Bu Saʻid family, which took control of Oman in the 1740s and remains in power. There are also notes on the geologic regions and natural history of Oman. The work ends with descriptions of the Dhofar and Beraimi (present-day Buraimi) areas of the southeastern Arabian Peninsula. Miles was first appointed political agent in Oman by the government of India in the early 1870s and remained in Musqat (also seen as Masqat and Muscat) and other posts in the region until his retirement 20 years later. Countries and Tribes of the Persian Gulf is the fruit of his many travels and observations in the Gulf and his interest in its history and ethnology.

Last updated: October 29, 2015