Kuwait Oil Company Archive

Scope and Content

The Archive is an important source of record for the history of the transformation of Kuwait during the 20th century from a traditional society to an oil state. It includes Board minutes, agreements, management files and reports, accounts, photographs, maps, plans, the Company magazine (first produced in 1948), and PR material. Most series are comprehensive. The photographic collection includes fine series of commissioned photographs by Raymond Wilson and Adolf Morath from the 1950s and 60s. Not only is the development of the Kuwaiti oil industry extensively recorded, but also the topographical transformation of the country, political and cultural changes, and the development of social services and amenities. A series of frequent reports from 1936 to 1959 exists by Lieutenant Colonel H. R. P. Dickson as Chief Local Representative, covering a wide range of social, topographical and political matters, including liaison with the ruling family.

Administrative / Biographical History

Kuwait Oil Company Limited (KOC) was incorporated in the United Kingdom in February 1934, 50 per cent owned by BP (then called Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited) and 50 per cent by Gulf Oil Corporation of Pennsylvania (taken over by Standard Oil Company of California in 1984 which subsequently renamed itself Chevron).

In December 1934 the Company acquired a concession in Kuwait. The first discovery of oil in Kuwait in commercial quantities was by the KOC in 1938 and production commenced after the Second World War. The first export of crude oil took place in 1946. The Company always remained a purely production and refining company with the products being sold through the parent companies. The parent companies owned the concession and the Company operated it for them.

The Company's registered head office was in London. Its offices in Kuwait were at Magwa until 1949 when a complete township, including administrative headquarters, workshops, residential quarters and amenities, was built at Ahmadi. Also in 1949 a refinery was commissioned. By 1971 the Company was producing nearly 3 million barrels of oil a day.

The Company was notable for employing Lieutenant Colonel H. R. P. Dickson as its Chief Local Representative from 1936 until his death in 1959. He wrote several books on Kuwait. His wife, Dame Violet Dickson, was also an author on Kuwait.

Kuwait acquired a 60 per cent interest in KOC's assets from 1 January 1974, by an Agreement signed on 29 January 1974 by the Kuwait Government (which backdated 25 per cent participation for the whole of 1973). On 1 December 1975 terms were agreed for the acquisition of the final 40 per cent by Kuwait - the Takeover Agreement, the effective date being backdated to 5 March 1975.

Reference: Kuwait Oil Company Archive


The Archive is arranged to reflect the structure of the company

Access Information

The Archive is open to 1954. An appointment is required to view the papers, please contact staff for more information.

Acquisition Information

This collection was acquired in a series of deposits from 1973 from Kuwait Oil Company Limited.

Other Finding Aids

A database to file level is available in the public searchroom.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying of material is permitted at the discretion of BP Archive.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

Further papers of the Kuwait Oil Company are at The Middle East Centre Private Papers Collection, St. Antony's College, Oxford.

The repository also holds the papers of the BP Archive, two other jointly owned subsidiary companies: the Iraq Petroleum Company Archive, and the Shell-Mex and BP Limited Archive, and the papers of the wholly owned subsidiary the Burmah Oil Company Archive.

The repository holds a significant collection of books relating to the oil industry.