Britain oversaw foreign relations and defense for the ruling Kuwaiti AL-SABAH dynasty from 1899 until independence in 1961.
Kuwait was attacked and overrun by Iraq on 2 August 1990. Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a US-led, UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that liberated Kuwait in four days.
Kuwait spent more than $5 billion to repair oil infrastructure damaged during 1990-91.
The AL-SABAH family has ruled since returning to power in 1991 and reestablished an elected legislature that in recent years has become increasingly assertive.
The country witnessed the historic election in May 2009 of four women to its National Assembly.
Amid the 2010-11 uprisings and protests across the Arab world, stateless Arabs, known as bidun, staged small protests in February and March 2011 demanding citizenship, jobs, and other benefits available to Kuwaiti nationals.
Youth activist groups — supported by opposition legislators and the prime minister's rivals within the ruling family — rallied repeatedly in 2011 for an end to corruption and the ouster of the prime minister and his cabinet.
Opposition legislators forced the prime minister to resign in late 2011.
In October-December 2012, Kuwait witnessed unprecedented protests in response to the Amir's changes to the electoral law by decree reducing the number of votes per person from four to one.
The opposition, led by a coalition of Sunni Islamists, tribalists, some liberals, and myriad youth groups, boycotted the December 2012 legislative election, resulting in a historic number of Shia candidates winning seats.
Since 2006, the Amir has dissolved the National Assembly on five occasions (the Constitutional Court annulled the Assembly once in June 2012) and reshuffled the cabinet 12 times, usually citing political stagnation and gridlock between the legislature and the government.