By presenting Kuwaiti merchants as a case study for the Arab merchants of the Gulf, this dissertation takes a fresh look at the way that the merchants of this region conducted trade as part of the first global economy. This has been useful in helping us paint a broad picture of the Gulf merchants’ communities in the pre-oil period. This serves to elucidate a model and the relationships and reasons for success or failure in this network and thereby to add to the large historiography on Indian Ocean networks. The main analytic framework of this study is based on Claude Markovit’s argument for going back to the idea of a trade network by examining it through “the circulation of men and things”. This was developed into a “circulation society” by Aslanian. The dissertation draws on original materials from Kuwait, Bahrain and London, in addition to the rozenamahs of the nakhodas (log books of the dhow captains) and interviews with some pre-oil merchants in particular, which together constitute important Asian primary sources. These sources which are pivotal to it for a framework of the circulation connections trace the concomitant development of the family firms of merchants based in India but centred on Kuwait and explores how they operated/integrated legally and illegally in the Indian Ocean economy. At the same time, it examines how the merchants expressed the economic and social institutions of pre-oil Kuwait through their long-distance trading and pearl industry and even their smuggling networks. It further explores how Kuwaiti merchants in an ocean-wide commercial society constructed relationships of economic mutualism with one another by mobilizing mudaraba (commenda) partnerships with trusted partners. Taking the broadest picture, the dissertation argues that by organizing business in creative ways in the developing world of commerce, adjusting to the rise in contemporary capitalism in the Indian Ocean and by tactically moving into global markets, the merchants could develop their increasing commercial organization whilst becoming fundamental to economic and social life in Kuwait. From the middle of the 19th century to 1946, they played a critical role in structuring and developing Kuwait’s social, economic and political life and also its stability. More importantly, by making a case study of the Kuwaiti network, the dissertation demonstrates Kuwait’s importance in the global economic structure.