Empires and Anarchies
A History of Oil in the Middle East
by Michael Quentin Morton
Hardback: 256 pages, 55 b+w photographs, maps
Nothing can compare with the oilfields of the Middle East, which has the greatest oil reservoirs in the world. But,
having created immense wealth, oil has not brought universal happiness to the region. The history of oil is not only
about the great discoveries, but also about the transformation of people and societies, about the empires built on oil and
the anarchies it has engendered.
This account is very different to the conventional narrative. Here
the burnt-out remains of Saddam Hussein's armies and the human tragedy of the Arab Spring are as much of the story as
the shimmering skylines of the oil-rich nations. From the first explorers trudging through the desert wastes to the excesses
of the Peacock Throne and the high stakes of OPEC, the history of oil is described in all its aspects: how it enriched and
fractured the Middle East, eroding traditional ways of life and seeing the rise of Islamic radicalism.
and Anarchies presents a fascinating insight into the historical background of the region through the people and politics
of oil. It provides essential reading for anyone intrigued by the promise and the curse of oil, as well as for those interested
in how oil has played a crucial part in shaping the modern Middle East.
'An excellent, readable,
introduction to the history and development of oil in the Middle East. following in the footsteps of Daniel Yergin's authoritative
study, The Prize. It is a complicated story but Quentin Morton handles it well with engaging, insightful, and humorous
details that bring the broader international, political, and social aspects into high relief.' J.E. Peterson, editor of The Emergence of the
Gulf: Studies in Modern History.
‘In this highly readable book, Morton
takes us from the mid-19th century to the present day, charting the history of oil in the Middle East . . . This is a complicated
area, incorporating a maelstrom of colonial interests and an emergence of US extraterritorial manoeuvring, but Morton writes
soberly, identifying key figures and making a dense subject accessible to the non-specialist. The worldwide impact of the
oil industry, nascent just over a century ago, and the machinations for its control mean this is a fascinating, disturbing
and concerning story of an industry breeding discontent from the outset.' Tom Garbett, Law Society
For the full review, click here.
'Following hard on his Third River, reviewed in
this Journal in March 2016, which dealt with the history of the Iraq Petroleum Company, Quentin Morton has enlarged his canvas
to take in the story of oil in the heart of the Middle East from the earliest quests in Iran and Iraq over a century ago to
its advent in all Arabia and all the convulsions of the region through to the present year. This is of course a supremely
ambitious undertaking, but he has achieved his aim. Morton has managed to set out a thorough, well-researched and lucid account
of the whole complicated story in an enjoyably readable style.' Julian Lush, Journal of Asian Affairs
(2018), vol. XLIX, no.1, pp. 134-142.
For the full review, click here.
‘Morton tells the story of oil prospecting, discoveries, and development in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen from the 1850s to 2016 . . . Despite an insider's knowledge of British
companies operating in the region, his history of the rise of national oil companies and of oil prices in the 1970s seems
balanced, as he can also empathize with nationalist grievances against imperial powers. While carefully martialing all the
circumstantial evidence to the contrary, Morton argues that access to Iraqi oil was not the prime driver of the US decision
(without approval from the UN Security Council) to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003. Recommended.' - Choice