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First World War all about oil?

Discussions on all aspects of the First World War not covered in the other sections.
Hosted by Terry Duncan.

Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby ljadw on 12 Sep 2009 05:20

The Enigma:thank you,one is never to old to learn some thing :)
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby Attrition on 12 Sep 2009 21:25

Just don't whip it out!
Attrition, the strategy that dares not speak its name.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby johnscriv on 25 Mar 2011 11:23

"why would Britain bother to occupy areas with natural resources ... All they'd have to do was buy it"

This hollow argument has been offered time and again by people like Tony Blair who habitually mislead and deny the bleeding obvious.

The most obvious reason why a Great Power would want to occupy and control oil rich regions would be to guarantee security of supply for themselves and deny it to their rivals ... they surely don't wish to be held hostage to the demands of others who may not always be suitably supplicant.

The idea that a Great Power would depend solely on regular business arrangements to guarantee access to vital strategic resources, is clearly naive and contrary to historical fact.

A Great Power takes what it wants, it has no need for the niceties of fair trade.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby glenn239 on 26 Mar 2011 14:13

This hollow argument has been offered time and again by people like Tony Blair who habitually mislead and deny the bleeding obvious.


As Terry knows but casually didn't mention, Albertini in Vol III of his origins of the war series records that it was the British themselves that asked the Greeks to allow the German battlecruiser Goeben to refuel in Greek waters. Quite sporting of them to tell a neutral government apparently willing to deny assistance to an enemy dreadnought to instead aid it in its flight from British forces, no? And really...did anyone notice that was about the most lackadaisical British pursuit of a flying enemy in the history of the British Empire?

Naturally, the British version is different (errors in the pursuit, and their naval attaché in Athens ‘went rogue’ or some other such patent stupidity) and the records even 100 years later are hazy...as is often the case when there really is a cock-up, as well as when the political torpedoes are in the water.

On top of which, did the oil fields in Iraq belong to British companies? If so surely it would be a case of imposing an embargo or a tariff system? Looking on the wiki's Mesopotamian campaign i note several things; the fighting in the Middle East did not start until several months following the European War


Given the pre-war transparent Russian intentions with regards to the Straights, it didn’t take a genius from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to have concluded that if a world war broke out, there would be in the Middle East opportunities.

if the war was about oil why did the fighitng in the Middle East not start until several months following the European War


Because the war was not about oil. But that’s not to be confused with the fact that in July 1914 there could have been an awareness that if there was a war, that the long anticipated partition of the Ottoman Empire would result. After all, Grey did say on 3 August 1914 that for Britain being in the war was of such scant consequences that it was not easily to be distinguished from staying out of it.

Temperamentally I favour the cock-up theory of history too, the trouble that a lot of the cock-ups are conspiracies that have backfired.


Your average backstab in an office environment is often not some grand conspiracy, it is usually a tad more than purely innocent in origin. That's about what this case smells like too - not a grand conspiracy and not entirely innocent either.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby Attrition on 26 Mar 2011 15:30

The other cock-ups are the conspiracies that succeed.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby South on 26 Mar 2011 18:49

Good afternoon ljadw,

I should have written the Berlin to Bagdad RR was a - political - competitor to the Suez Canal. The comparison was If Suez closed down then the comparison was BB RR versus the Cape route long haul. Of course water carriage is much cheaper than land hauls.

Prestige shows up in major governmental projects but it's not part of the major investment decision.

The US rail road tycoons, eg Harriman, did not have to compete with the Panama Canal until circa 1914.

Apologies for this late reply. I missed this months ago !


Warm regards,

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby South on 26 Mar 2011 19:13

Good afternoon John Scriv,

Welcome to the forum,

You've got my agreement (less the Tony Blair commentary I'm avoiding. I'm not familiar with situation).

My note is only to amplify on "regular business arrangements".

Up until the ultimate, eg a nationalization; an expropriation without "just" compensation, the oil companies used regular business arrangement that can be called "secured transactions". That is, if the oil pool nation reneged there were consequences to this.

An example:

",..the Seven Sisters set up a local consortium that would offer to explore, drill and market it. ... If a government ever attempted to renege on the deal, the cartel couds shut down oil exports by withdrawing its tankers, closing its pipelines, and refusing access to its refineries. ... amply demonstrated in 1951 in Iran. ..."

"DOSSIER: The Secret History of Armand Hammer", by Edward Jay Epstein, 1996, ISBN: 0-679-44802-0, pg. 216.

A more recent example....I don't have my files in front of me for reference specifics but this example illustrates......:

(Not related to current events in Libya)

About 20 years ago there was a dispute between Libya and Occidental Petroleum Company. Libya seized Oxy oil. Libya then loaded tankers for the oil's sale in Europe (French Med oil port). Armand Hammer had arrangements with his French attorneys to have oil seized when in French waters, etc, etc.

Warm regards,

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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby TalkingZero on 20 May 2011 00:59

I think people are straying from the subject....just a little -.-
The Great War happened when the Arch duke or Austria was killed by a Bosnian terroist. As this happened in bosnia, it was on the border of a type of continental shift. Well, you know how when shifts move and earthquakes happen? It's kinda like that, but it was a political border he was on, between empires rather than continets. Anyway, Austria (reasonably enough) demanded that Serbia apologize and offer some sort of appeasment, however Russia felt that it could not afford to have Serbia humiliated. So then Austria got its ally germany to help if a war happened. The people in the west couldnt give a dam about bosnia. But they still got dragged into it, worrying that central europe would conqour all.

I don't know alot about the kaiser, but Germany was unfairly treated after the war. They were only helping an allied country in a war they had nothing to do with. I'm not a nazi sympathiser or trying to deny the halocaust ever happened, but that's the origins of the great war. I find that 'Oil' is a bit simplistic, and a trivial thing to fight over.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby Kelvin on 22 May 2011 10:37

For Austria-Hungary, the war against Serbia was of vital importance to her survivial when facing nationalism in Italy and the Balkan. Austria took this chance to settle Serbian problem once and for all. The successful campaign at least prolonged the life of that empire.

German wanted to make this war localized but Russian response probably gave German another thinking : took this chance to fight a preventive war against Russia as the former was seriously worried about Russian army expansion up to 1917.

France joined the war because if she remained neutral in this war, once Russia was crushed, she would be at the mercy of German.

Given the strength of German army, Britain was worried about the fate of both Russian and France and joined the war to prevent German from changing the balance of power in Europe.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby TalkingZero on 05 Jun 2011 19:34

Again, the world being afraid of the Germans.....
You would think that France was the big enemy, as Napoleon did try to dominate the world in the century before.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby Kelvin on 05 Jun 2011 20:04

When Bismarck gone, German diplomacy was less effective after 1890. Kaiser refused to renew reinsurance treay with Russia and led to the formation of Frano-Russian military alliance in 1894. Her naval expansion and Kaiser's aggressive attitude led to Anglo-French Entente of 1904.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby TalkingZero on 05 Jun 2011 20:21

Yeeah, but compare that with today. Alot of people found Georg Bush's presidency as 'less than preferred' but noone hates america. It must be some other reason.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby Kelvin on 05 Jun 2011 20:58

IMO, Germany was relatively strong power in Europe but was not absolutely strong at that time. Bismarck knew that at nd needed flexible diplomacy to maintain German power and needed time to enhance German strength. German had strong industrial capacity but still behind those of USA in 1914 and her navy was still small than those of the Royal Navy in 1914 and in term of military manpower, Russia was capable of putting more men than her. Cannot compare Germany with USA, USA was superpower in our time and Germany was only relatively strong power in 1914.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby TalkingZero on 05 Jun 2011 21:09

So then why did people care so much for putting an end to Germany if they wern't even a strong power? Did Germany commit some major offence to the queen or something ?
Historically speaking, it makes more sence for england to hate America than Germany.
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Re: First World War all about oil?

Postby Kelvin on 05 Jun 2011 21:43

In the late 19th Century , US and British relation was on good terms. The largest British overseas investment were in USA in 1914, not in her colonies. US and British border agreement on Canadian border at least release British military presence in Amercia, unlike Russia, British still needed to maintain a strong Indian army in Afgan border.Russian military presence in Persia and near Ottoman also brought heavy military pressure on British war planner. On the other hand, US relatively peaceful policy towards Britain and also both were English speaking countries made them more friendly.
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