This entertaining collection of anecdotes and stories charts the lesser-known history of the hunt for oil in the Middle East.
The fascinating stories of the explorers, spies and entrepreneurs who led the hunt for oil in the Middle East from the 1880s to the outbreak of the Second World War The Middle East had long been awash with rumors and legends of oil, rumors that gradually seeped into Western Europe. The Greek historian Herodotus had once described the existence of "oil-pits" in Mesopotamia, while Jebel Zeit, a mountain on the west coast of the Gulf of Suez, was known by the ancients as Mons Petroleus. However, the discovery that kerosene could be extracted from crude oil and used as fuel for light and heat in the late nineteenth century shifted the hunt for oil into high gear, particularly in the Middle East.Against the backdrop of British and Russian—and increasingly American—maneuverings for dominance in the region, Roger Howard explores the history of oil exploration in anecdotal style and with a lively pace. He brings to life forgotten figures such as Frank Holmes, revered by the Arabs as Abu Naft (the "Father of Oil") and Harry St. John Philby, father of the famous British double agent Kim Philby, as well as figures from the world stage such as Julius de Reuter, founder of Reuters News Agency, the Armenian oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian and Chicago-born entrepreneur Charles R. Crane.Throughout the twentieth century, the demand for petroleum increased and it eventually became one of the most valuable commodities traded in the world market. The Oil Hunters illustrates how today's oil giants emerged in Persia but also Iraq (Mesopotamia), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. British Petroleum, for example, was originally the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Considered by many to be one of the most important events of twentieth century history, the discovery of Persian oil in 1908 is related here as a vivid adventure story of exploration and exploitation, peopled by eccentrics, adventurers and magnates.For more information, visit his website at www.oilhunters.net.