The first foreigners to reach Kuwait were the Greeks, who established a trading post there. Various regimes visited over the years including the Romans but it wasn’t until the 18th Century that the Bani Utbah tribe formally established the area as Kuwait or ‘little fort’.
Based upon a natural harbour, the economy has always been largely trade based and the discovery of oil in 1938 revolutionised the finances of the region.
The current rulers, the Al Sabah family or House of Sabah have ruled since 1752.
In the 1870s the Ottoman Empire took an interest in Kuwait and in 1896, following the assassination of Sheikh Muhammad Al-Sabah by his half brother Mubarak, the country was recognised as a province of the Ottoman empire and the new sheikh the provincial sub-governor.
Mubarak, however, also did deals with the British and in 1899 he signed an agreement with the British which guaranteed Kuwait’s national security. Although the Ottomans objected at first, they backed off and in 1913 the Anglo Ottoman Convention was signed which allowed Kuwait to become an autonomous district of the Ottoman Empire.
Following World War 1, with the Ottomans defeated, the country became an independent sheikdom under British Protectorate.
On 19th June 1961 Kuwait obtained full independence, still under the rule of the House of Sabah. In 1962 a constitution was formed which allowed for a National Assembly which has a higher degree of power than most parliaments in the region.
In August 1990 Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, but in Febraury 1991 the country was liberated by American led forces in the First Gulf War.
Sheikh Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah is the current Head of State.
The unicameral National Assembly has 50 members elected by popular vote to serve four year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Kuwait at joint 75th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 41 (where 100 is least corrupt).