|The Al Khalifas: Bahrain's First Family
The history of Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family goes back more than two centuries. Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, who conquered Bahrain in 1783, was the first member of the Al Khalifa dynasty, which which has ruled ever since.
Despite the obvious challenges of uniting a people influenced by so many cultures, Shaikh Ahmed consolidated his position as Bahrain's ruler and began developing trade with other nations.
Subsequent generations were plagued by internal dissensions as well as a continuing external threat, until within the space of eight years, two important events took place.
In 1861, Bahrain signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship with Britain, guaranteeing British intervention in the case of external aggression.
And in 1869, Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa was named ruler.
Shaikh Isa's accession ushered in over half a century of peace and stability. He abdicated in 1923 in favour of his son Hamad, during whose 19-year reign Bahrain entered the oil era.
When he died in 1942, he was succeeded by Shaikh Salman, who negotiated the transfer of a number of responsibilities held by the British.
Shaikh Isa bin Sulman Al Khalifa, assumed power in 1961 on the death of his father. Full independence came in 1971, when Bahrain terminated its political and military treaties with Britain.
Shaikh Isa's 38-year reign saw Bahrain develop into a major regional banking and trade centre. He died in March 1999.
He was succeeded by his son Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who was proclaimed the country's first King (and Bahrain a kingdom) after a people's referendum voted overwhelmingly in favour.
The popular King has introduced a string of reforms since his ascension to power, including holding of elections and giving women the right to vote and run for office.
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