[This event is organised by MEI’s Arabia-Asia Research Cluster, as part of its monthly internal seminar series.]
This event was open to the NUS community only, though members of the public could email firstname.lastname@example.org if they were interested in attending.
In the years immediately following the end of the Second World War, British banks and others made a beeline to the Persian Gulf. Lobbying with sheikhs and the officials of the Bank of England, they competed with each other to open branches and break the monopoly of the British Bank of the Middle East (BBME) which had shifted base from Iran to city-states like Kuwait and Dubai in the early 40s. Why were banks scrambling for business in the Gulf at a time when oil was yet to make inroads into their economies, and when most of the functions of commercial banking continued to be performed by Indian merchants? In attempting to answer this question, this paper discussed Britain’s post-war monetary politics in the Gulf which placed it in an antagonistic relationship with both the US which was the custodian of the Bretton Woods order and India which had inherited the imperial obligations of the Raj. It also asked what banking essentially meant in the particular context of the Persian Gulf in order to offer a historical perspective on questions of smuggling and money laundering rampant within the region.
About the Speaker(s)
Nisha Mathew is Joint Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute and Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She received her PhD in History from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in 2014 where her research explored the methodological possibilities of Indian Ocean studies in the making of a contemporary urban space as Dubai. She is currently working on her book titled “24 Carat Cities: Gold, Smuggling and Mobility in the Western Indian Ocean”. It tells the story of Dubai’s rise to prominence as a 21st century global city with gold as the protagonist.