In Pursuit of National Security: The Foreign Office and Middle Eastern Oil, 1908–39
From the beginning of the twentieth century the oil industry had significant implications for foreign policy. Many of the leading oil companies were large multinational operations: since, in the majority of producing countries, the sub-soil mineral rights were owned by the state, these companies had to deal directly with the host governments. Hence, the use of political influence over the host governments became an important aspect of obtaining and retaining concessions; conversely, the companies offered the parent governments a mechanism to exercise influence over the host governments in countries where they operated. In addition, oil was an unusually significant resource, for both commercial and strategic reasons. Even before the First World War demonstrated the critical importance of petroleum to modern technological warfare, for the British Government the proposed transfer of the Royal Navy from coal to oil highlighted the crucial necessity of ensuring adequate supplies of oil, which, by virtue of the lack of known domestic supplies, essentially meant foreign oil.
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