The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> Arabian Peninsula >> Other Regions, Etc., A-Z
Aden Protectorate

former British dependency that is now part of the Republic of Yemen

The protectorate had an area of 110,000 square miles and comprised 20 Arab tribal states. It was bordered on the south by the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, on the east by the sultanate of Muscat and Oman, on the north by Saudi Arabia, and on the northwest by Yemen.


After the occupation of Aden by the British in 1839, the individual states of the southern Arabian Peninsula entered into protective treaties with Great Britain. This was a gradual process, lasting from 1839 until 1914, when the last treaty was signed with the Audhali sultan. The territory that came under the jurisdiction of the Aden Protectorate eventually extended well east of Aden to Hadhramaut and included all of the territory that would eventually become South Yemen, except for Aden city and its immediate environs which together with several offshore islands was known as the Colony of Aden and was the only part where no Arab ruler retained jurisdiction.

In 1902, Yemen, then a province of Ottoman Turkey, an Anglo-Turkish Boundary Commission commenced the demarcation of the Aden Protectorate-Yemeni frontier. In 1904 the commission was withdrawn, and the undemarcated part of the frontier was eventually delineated and described in the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 1914.

In 1917, control of Aden Protectorate was transferred from the Government of India, which had inherited the British East India Company's interests in various princely states on the strategically important naval route from Europe to India, to the British Foreign Office. For administrative purposes, the protectorate was informally divided into the Eastern Protectorate (Hadhramaut), with headquarters at Mukalla in Qu'aiti, and the Western Protectorate, with headquarters at Lahej.

[States Within the Eastern Protectorate: Kathiri, Mahra, Qu'aiti, Wahidi Balhaf, Wahidi Bir Ali, Wahidi Haban. States Within the Western Protectorate: Alawi, Aqrabi, Audhali, Beihan, Dathina, Dhala, Fadhli, Haushabi, Lahej, Lower Aulaqi, Lower Yafa, Qutaibi, Shaib, Upper Aulaqi Sheikdom, Upper Aulaqi Sultanate, Upper Yafa, Upper Yafa Sultanate]

In 1934, the ruler of Yemen, Imam Yahya, who had long claimed that the protectorate and the colony of Aden formed part of his dominions, entered into a treaty of friendship with Great Britain. According to the treaty, the de facto frontier at the time of signature, which followed generally that of the Anglo-Turkish Convention, was accepted pending the setting up of a boundary commission, provided for in the treaty.

Disorders broke out on the border between Aden Protectorate and Yemen in December 1956 and continued into 1957. In February 1957 Royal Air Force planes drove Yemeni intruders from the Beihan area of the protectorate.

A Yemeni tribesman watches a British "Venom" fighter from his position within the Aden Protectorate during the 1957 Aden-Yemen border hostilities.
Yemeni tribesman in Aden

On February 11, 1959, six states in the Western Aden Protectorate formed the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South. In the next three years they were joined by nine others and, on January 18, 1963, Aden Colony was merged with the federation creating the Federation of South Arabia. At the same time, those states which had not joined the federation became the Protectorate of South Arabia, thus ending the existence of the Aden Protectorate.

Collier's Encyclopedia Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation, 1969

Saudi Arabia
Great Britain
Colony of Aden
British East India Company
Federation of South Arabia

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Arabian Peninsula >> Other Regions, Etc., A-Z

This page was last updated on June 13, 2018.