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An oily entente: France, Britain, and the Mosul question, 1916–1925

An oily entente: France, Britain, and the Mosul question, 1916–1925
An oily entente: France, Britain, and the Mosul question, 1916–1925
World War I brought the significance of oil as a strategic commodity to the attention of Britain and France as never before, leading to the emergence of a ‘politics of oil’/politique de pétrole centred on energy security. On both sides of the Channel ministers toyed with different ways of achieving national ‘control’ of oil, some of them étatiste in spirit, others laissez-faire. With the defeat of the Ottoman and German Empires the untapped oil resources of Mesopotamia as well as oil assets sequestered from German companies awaited allocation. Considering how little interest she had paid to oil production before the war, as well as the absence of ‘boots on the ground’ in the Middle East at its end, France did well out of this reallocation. British concessions to French interests constituted an oily entente, all the more striking as Anglo-French relations deteriorated in the early 1920s. In seeking to explain this entente, which laid the foundation of France as an oil power, we need to consider inter-oil company as well as inter-national relations. This essay shows how oil companies used lobbying, the media and mercantilist rhetoric to shape apparently ‘national’ oil policies in their own interests. The oily entente served the interest of an emerging world oil cartel more than it did British or French energy security. To understand the action of peacemakers, from Paris in 1919 to Lausanne in 1923, we need to be more attentive to non-state interests, without which our picture of diplomacy and the post-war settlement is incomplete.

0959-2296
Conlin, Jonathan
3ab58a7d-d74b-48d9-99db-1ba2f3aada40
Conlin, Jonathan
3ab58a7d-d74b-48d9-99db-1ba2f3aada40

Conlin, Jonathan (2020) An oily entente: France, Britain, and the Mosul question, 1916–1925. Diplomacy and Statecraft.

Record type: Article

Abstract

World War I brought the significance of oil as a strategic commodity to the attention of Britain and France as never before, leading to the emergence of a ‘politics of oil’/politique de pétrole centred on energy security. On both sides of the Channel ministers toyed with different ways of achieving national ‘control’ of oil, some of them étatiste in spirit, others laissez-faire. With the defeat of the Ottoman and German Empires the untapped oil resources of Mesopotamia as well as oil assets sequestered from German companies awaited allocation. Considering how little interest she had paid to oil production before the war, as well as the absence of ‘boots on the ground’ in the Middle East at its end, France did well out of this reallocation. British concessions to French interests constituted an oily entente, all the more striking as Anglo-French relations deteriorated in the early 1920s. In seeking to explain this entente, which laid the foundation of France as an oil power, we need to consider inter-oil company as well as inter-national relations. This essay shows how oil companies used lobbying, the media and mercantilist rhetoric to shape apparently ‘national’ oil policies in their own interests. The oily entente served the interest of an emerging world oil cartel more than it did British or French energy security. To understand the action of peacemakers, from Paris in 1919 to Lausanne in 1923, we need to be more attentive to non-state interests, without which our picture of diplomacy and the post-war settlement is incomplete.

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OilyEntenterevisedDS (1) - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 20 March 2019
Published date: 1 June 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 429636
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/429636
ISSN: 0959-2296
PURE UUID: 8c896877-2422-4ed1-ae09-0dff956d34ee

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Date deposited: 02 Apr 2019 16:30
Last modified: 02 Apr 2019 16:30

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Author: Jonathan Conlin

University divisions

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