1759 - French operations in the Persian Gulf

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The campaign took place in 1759


After the rearrangement of European trade routes after the discovery of naval routes to India and South-East Asia around the Cape of Good Hope, the region of the Persian Gulf region became an important commercial and economic area because it has great wealth and was the departure point of important roads leading to Mosul and India. Furthermore, many European countries maintained commercial relations with countries around the Persian Gulf.

As early as the first Portuguese and Dutch colonisation attempt on the coasts of Africa and in India, European powers entered into conflict to gain influence and control over the region of the Persian Gulf.

At the beginning of the XVIIth century, France and England started to play an ever increasing role in the trade in the region of the Persian Gulf through their respective commercial companies. This lent to purely commercial conflicts. Shortly after the establishment of French Compagnie des Indes Orientales in 1604, French merchant ships were sent to the region of the Persian Gulf where two trading agencies were established. The first at Bandar-Abbas on the east coast of the gulf; the second in the city of Basra on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf.

During the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries, these trade agencies gradually increased their trade relations with the rulers and princes of the region. In September 1715, the situation of France in the region was strong enough to allow it to oust the Dutch from Mauritius Island, located on the East coast of Africa, which was renamed Isle-de-France. This island became a naval base for the French fleet in the East. During the Seven Years' War, the main task of this fleet was to attack British merchant ships sailing towards India, the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, England did not remain idle. It soon established a presence in the region of the Persian Gulf through the East India Company who sent several envoys to the region and to Persia to establish business relations and obtain trading privileges from the local rulers and princes. The company established trading posts in Persia at Isfahan and Bandar-Abbas. It also assisted Shah Abbas in expelling the Portuguese from Hormuz and obtained important commercial concessions in Persia in recognition for its assistance.

With the decline of Dutch influence, French and British entered into intense competition to gain control over the region of the Persian Gulf. Warships often asserted the military presence of both nations in the region.


The outbreak of the Seven Years' War

In 1756, at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in Europe, King Louis XV of France ordered to attack British ships anywhere they would be encountered. He also offered reward for both the capture of British ships or prisoners.

During the war, the region of the Persian Gulf acquired a lot of importance for France as well as for Great Britain. Both countries conducted important trade in the region. Furthermore, the land route passing through Iraq from Aleppo to Basra was often used to convey messages and commands between the metropolitan governments of their respective establishments in India.

The first action between the French and British ships in the region of the Persian Gulf occurred in 1758. On January 14, the French ship Bristol sailed from the port of Bandar-Abbas on her way to Basra where she was expected to remain for three months, waiting for a shipment of wheat destined to Bundhiri (unidentified location) in India. British received intelligence of this and decided to intercept this ship on her return trip. Accordingly, in June, the East India Company armed the Revenge and Drake to intercept the French Bristol. However, the French ship managed to escape her pursuers unmolested.

Campaign of 1759

In 1759, three French ships led by the Comte Dastan appeared in front of the port of Muscat, planning to attack a British ship anchored in this neutral port. The governor of Oman, Khalfan bin Mohammed, refused to let the French ships engaged the British ship and opened fire on Dastan's ships, forcing them to withdraw. On October 12, two French ships, a 64-guns ship of the line and an unidentified 22-guns frigate, carrying the Dutch flag arrived at the port of Bandar-Abbas. On October 13, these two ships attacked and bombarded the British trading posts located in this harbour. They then landed 400 men to storm the post whose garrison surrendered. The French occupied and burned down the trading post and captured a vessel, which was anchored in the harbour. They then retired from Bandar-Abbas, sailing for Basra.


This small French success, was soon overshadowed by the huge British successes in India. Gradually, British influence in the Persian Gulf grew stronger and stronger.

In 1761, the French made another unsuccessful attempt to capture British ships in the port of Muscat.

After the Seven Years' War, the British East India Company managed to impose its influence and control in the Persian Gulf .


Mustafa Abdel-Qader al-Najjar and others, History of Persian Gulf modern and contemporary, Basra, 1984, i 1, pp. 15-22.

Mahmoud Shaker, Encyclopedia of the history Persian Gulf, Oman, 2003, c 1, p 286.

C. C. Lorimer, user Gulf (historical section), translated by Translation Department Office of the Emir of Qatar, Qatar, 2000, p 75.

Abdul-Amir Mohammed Amin, British interests in the Persian Gulf 1747-1778, translated by Hashem Kata necessary, Baghdad, 1977, p 77.

O. B. Miles, Gulf, its countries and tribes, translated by Muhammad Amin Abdullah, Oman, i 4.1990, p 254.


Abbass Hassan Obbaiss, a historian from Babylon in Iraq, for the initial version of this article