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Great War: Unknown War News and Events

A Crude History of the Great War: Middle East Oil and the Great Powers, 1908-27 Event

Gulbenkian Portrait
24 May 2018
Avenue Campus, University of Southampton, SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this event, please email Mary Andrew at .

Event details

Part of the Great War: Unknown War lecture series

As Mosul and its oil continues to fuel conflict in Iraq and the wider region, Jonathan Conlin considers the race to develop its oil reserves that took place a century ago, which saw the emergence of energy security as a paramount concern for the Great Powers, in war and in peace - as well as the emergence of the multi-national oil companies we know as Shell, BP, Total and ExxonMobil. This lecture considers four moments in the struggle to establish who owned the region's vast oil reserves: from pre-war claims staked by Arab sheikhs facing the venal regime of the Ottoman sultan, Abdülhamid, through the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement and on, to the 1923 Lausanne Conference, which saw the haughty British diplomat George Nathaniel Curzon trying to hold erstwhile allies together in the face of a resurgent Turkey led by Mustapha Kemal. Was Mosul's oil Ottoman, British, French, Arab...or Iraqi?

Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
Grozny Gusher
Grozny Gusher

Abstract coming soon.

Speaker information

Dr Jonathan Conlin,I am completing a five-year project addressing one of the most important figures in the history of the oil industry: Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955). Born into a family of Ottoman Armenian merchants in Istanbul, Gulbenkian spent much of his life in London and Paris before settling in Lisbon in 1942. He established the Turkish (later Iraq) Petroleum Company in 1912, and is often associated with the 1928 "Red Line Agreement", which saw the world's oil majors agree to collaborate within the confines of what had been the Ottoman Empire. Alongside TPC Gulbenkian also played an important role shaping the firms we know today as Shell and Total. A diplomat, financier and art collector as well as an "oil man" (a label he himself shunned) Gulbenkian's interests literally spanned the globe, from California to Siberia. A grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has enabled me to write what will hopefully be the definitive biography of this secretive figure.

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