The Trucial States (Arabic: إمارات الساحل المتصالح Imārāt as-Sāḥil al-Mutaṣāliḥ; also known as Trucial Oman, Trucial States of the Coast of Oman, the Trucial Coast, and Trucial Sheikhdoms) were a group of sheikhdoms in the south-eastern Persian Gulf, previously known to the British as the 'Pirate Coast', which were signatories to treaties (hence 'trucial') with the British government. These treaties established an informal protectorate by Great Britain, and the sheikhdoms, or emirates, were a British protectorate from 1820 until 2 December 1971, when the seven principal trucial sheikhdoms became independent. Six (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qawain and Fujairah) were to form the United Arab Emirates on that day; the seventh – Ras Al Khaimah – joined the Federation on 10 February 1972.
The sheikhdoms included:Abu Dhabi (1820–1971)Ajman (1820–1971)Dubai (1835–1971)Fujairah (1952–1971)Kalba (1936–1951)Ras al-Khaimah (1820–1971)Sharjah (1820–1971)Umm al-Quwain (1820–1971)
The sheikhdoms permanently allied themselves with the United Kingdom by the Perpetual Maritime Truce of 1853, until in 1892 they entered into "Exclusivity Agreements" with the British - following on from Bahrain in 1880 - which put them under British protection. This was an unclear status which fell short of a formal protectorate, but required Britain to defend them from external aggression in exchange for exclusive British rights in the states.
Two sheikhdoms at various times looked as if they might be granted trucial status, affirming their independence from neighbouring Sharjah, Al Hamriyah and Al Heera, but neither signed treaties with the British. Kalba, granted trucial status in 1936 because it was chosen as the site of a back-up landing strip for the Imperial Airways flights into Sharjah, was re-incorporated into Sharjah in 1951 on the death of its ruler.
The last sheikhdom to be granted recognition was that of Fujairah, which became a trucial state in 1952 after the British government came under pressure from PCL (Petroleum Concessions Limited) to grant status in order that the company could have a free hand to explore for oil along the whole east coast.
In 1952, the Trucial States Council was established to encourage co-operation between the seven Rulers.
The Indian rupee remained the de facto currency of the Trucial States as well as the other Persian Gulf states such as Qatar, Bahrain and Oman until these countries introduced their own currencies in 1969, after the great devaluation of the rupee.
The south eastern Persian Gulf coast was called the "Pirate Coast" by the British, who argued that raiders based there - particularly the 'Qawasim' or 'Joasmees' - now known as the Al Qasimi (the Ruling families of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah), harassed British flagged shipping.
The first in a long series of maritime skirmishes between the Al Qasimi and British vessels took place in 1797, when the British-flagged Bassein snow was seized and released two days later. The cruiser Viper was subsequently attacked off Bushire. A period of great instability followed along the coast, with a number of actions between British and Al Qasimi vessels alongside various changes of leadership and allegiances between the Rulers of Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Sharjah with Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi claiming sovereignty over 'all the Joasmee ports' in 1823, a claim recognised by the British at the time.
This version has been particularly well articulated by Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, the current Ruler of Sharjah, in his 1986 book The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf.
British expeditions to protect British Indian trade and interests around Ras al-Khaimah, close to the Strait of Hormuz, led to campaigns against that headquarters and other harbours along the coast, principally in 1809 but then again in 1819. The next year, 1820, a peace treaty was signed to which all the sheikhs of the coast adhered. The signatories to that treaty included Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi of Sharjah (on 6 January 1820. He signed a 'preliminary agreement' also on behalf of Ajman and Umm Al Qawain), and then on 8 January at Ras Al Khaimah, Hasan bin Rahmah Al Qasimi of Ras Al Khaimah signed as did Hassan Bin Rahma as Sheikh of 'Hatt and Fahleia' (presumably modern Khatt) formerly of Ras Al Khaimah, followed on 10 January by Qadib bin Ahmad of Jazirah Al Hamrah (given in the treaty's English translation as 'Jourat Al Kamra'!) signed. On 11 January 1820, again at Ras Al Khaimah, Shakhbut bin Diyab Al Nahyan signed on behalf of his son, Tahnoon, the Sheikh of the Bani Yas and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. Husain bin Ali of Rams signed on the 15th. The uncle of Muhammad bin Hazza of Dubai signed on the 28th in Sharjah. The Rulers of Ajman and Umm Al Qawain acceded to the full treaty on 15 March, signing on board the ship of the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, Sir William Grant-Keir. The treaty was also signed, at Sharjah, by the emir of Bahrain.
The Sheikh of Rams lost the support of his people soon after and both he and the Sheikh of Jazirah Al Hamrah were deposed and their communities became subject to the rule of Ras Al Khaimah.
As a peace treaty it was not a conspicuous success: skirmishes and conflicts, considered as raids by the British, continued intermittently until 1835, when the sheikhs agreed not to engage in hostilities at sea and Sharjah, Dubai, Ajman and Abu Dhabi signed a renewed treaty banning hostilities during the pearling season and a number of other short treaties were made, culminating with the ten-year truce of June 1843. Feeling the benefit of peaceful pearling and trade, the coastal Sheikhs signed the Perpetual Treaty of Maritime Peace in 1853, a process overseen by the British Political Agent at Bushire, Captain AB Kemball.
Separate treaties in 1847 and 1856 saw treaties undertaking the abolition of slave trading and, in 1873, a further treaty abolishing slaving was signed by Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Primarily in reaction to the ambitions of other European countries, namely France and Russia, the United Kingdom and the Trucial Sheikhdoms established closer bonds in an 1892 treaty, similar to treaties entered into by the UK with other Persian Gulf principalities. The sheikhs agreed not to dispose of any territory except to the United Kingdom and not to enter into relationships with any foreign government other than the United Kingdom without its consent. In return, the British promised to protect the Trucial Coast from all aggression by sea and to help in case of land attack. This treaty, the Exclusive Agreement, was signed by the Rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain between 6 and 8 March 1892. It was subsequently ratified by the Viceroy of India and the British Government in London.
In 1968 the United Kingdom announced its intention to end its protectorate over the Trucial Coast.
The other 'Trucial States' had long been a British protectorate with the British taking care of foreign policy and defence, as well as arbitrating between the rulers of the Eastern Gulf. This changed with Harold Wilson's announcement, on 16 January 1968, that all British troops were to be withdrawn from 'East of Aden'. The decision pitched the coastal emirates, together with Qatar and Bahrain, into fevered negotiations to fill the political vacuum that the British withdrawal would leave behind.
The principle of union was first agreed between the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid of Dubai on 18 February 1968 meeting in an encampment at Argoub Al Sedirah, near Al Semeih, a desert stop between the two emirates. The two agreed to work towards bringing the other emirates, including Qatar and Bahrain, into the union. Over the next two years, negotiations and meetings of the rulers followed - often stormy - as a form of union was thrashed out. The nine-state union was never to recover from the October 1969 meeting where heavy-handed British intervention resulted in a walk-out by Qatar and Ras Al Khaimah. Bahrain and Qatar were to drop out of talks, leaving only six emirates to agree on union on 18 July 1971.
On 2 December 1971, Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qawain and Fujairah joined in the Act of Union to form the United Arab Emirates. The seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the UAE on 10 February 1972 following Iran's seizure of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs from Ras Al Khaimah.