The Global Struggle for Oil, Money and Power During and After World War I

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What events took place in the epic quest for money, oil, and power during and after World War I?

Daniel Yergin has earned respect over the years on his knowledge of economics, international politics, and energy. He is holding the position of vice chairman of IHS, and he is the founder of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. According to Times Magazine, he is one man whose opinion concerning global energy markets is highly valued. His book "The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power" received the Pulitzer Prize and has been translated into approximately twenty languages. Chapter 9 to 15 of this book evaluate the global struggle for oil, money, and power during and after World War I.

The setting of the book

The setting of the book is in the period of World War I between 1914 and 1918 and after the end of the war. It is factual and based on real-life events in the early twentieth century. The war was between the Central Powers (the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Germany) and the Allied Powers (the United States, Japan, Romania, Italy, Russia, France, and Great Britain). At the beginning of the ninth chapter, Yergin provides a brief description of the state of France at the start of the war in 1914. Paris had been evacuated by the French government and over one hundred thousand civilians. The city was left unguarded in most parts. A French General was unable to get support from the British government to fight the Germans since he was viewed as a comedian. The other nations later joined the War in favor of either Germany or France.

The impact on Britain's oil production

During this time, Britain's Grand Fleet was stronger compared to Germany's High Seas Fleet. However, the production of oil in Britain was disturbed by the ongoing war at the beginning of 1916. It was as a result of Germans' constriction of oil supply to the British Isles and the growth in the demand for oil both at home and in the battlefield. The degeneration of Britain's oil position limited the oil supply in France because of Germany's unrestricted submarine campaign. To cub the limited oil supply, Britain requested assistance from the United States.

Events during World War I

Yergin begins the second part of the book by explaining the events that took place during the First World War. The war broke out between France and Germany. The French government and hundreds of civilians were forced to evacuate Paris leaving the city almost unguarded. General Joseph Gallieni tried to save his country by asking for assistance from the British government which was unsuccessful. He was not taken seriously due to his physical appearance and untidiness. However, he did not give up and moved around Paris trying to get a solution. He organized a unique transport team which involved using Paris taxicabs to transport the troops to the battlefield. The plan turned out to be successful and forced the Germans to retreat. However, the progress proved that the war would take longer than expected to end.

The impact of new inventions

The tank was invented and was first used in 1916 in the Battle of the Somme. In 1918, it led to the defeat of the German Army, and it improved the transport system after the Germans blocked the railway transport. The internal combustion engine was also invented, and it was utilized in the manufacture of airplanes. Oil and the internal combustion engine changed the warfare. The use of oil by the British Army gave them an advantage over its enemies since it provided higher speed, greater range, and it was easy to refuel. However, the production of oil faced some disturbance due to the on-going war. The oil crisis continued to intensify due to two main reasons; the Germans had constricted oil supplies to the British Isles, and the demand for oil had tremendously increased both at home and at the battlefield. The oil position of France continued to degenerate as a result of the limited supply of oil from Britain due to Germany's unrestricted submarine campaign. In the end, the oil owned by the Allied Powers turned out to be superior to the coal and iron used by Germany.

The quest for new oil sources

After all the celebrations, it was clear that everything was not settled. Every nation wanted a share of the areas that were highly prospective to oil. A new struggle began for new oil sources located in the Middle East and other places around the world. It was believed that larger quantities of oil would improve a nation's power and its economic prosperity. The United States turned out to be the leading land of gasoline by 1929. After the First World War, it was proved in the battlefields that oil was equal to power. As a result, a conflict emerged between nation-states and oil companies. The demand and supply for oil controlled the relations. It was a matter of how much the oil was worth, where the market was, and who possessed the oil. If having oil meant power, then oil had been made a symbol of sovereignty. As a result, the interests of nation-states and the objectives of oil companies collided. The clash still has an impact on the current international politics.

Main characters and themes

Some of the main characters in this section of the book include Major Frank Holmes, Columbus Joiner, Ernest Swinton, and General Joseph Gallieni. General Joseph Gallieni was an old French man, who had a bristly mustache, wore yellow leggings, black-buttoned boots, and a uniform that did not fit him well. His shoddy appearance made him look like a comedian rather than a general. He was not taken seriously by the British officials. However, he had big plans for France during the war. He organized the transportation of the troops to the battlefield using the Paris taxicabs, and they emerged victorious as the Germans retreated.

Ernest Swinton was a British colonel and an author of war fiction who worked on the official British history of the Russo-Japanese War. He came up with the idea of creating the tanks that used an internal combustion engine. Columbus Joiner had a bent posture with a silky-smooth complexion, persuasive, optimistic, and silver-tongued old man. He was involved in the oil business and made oil deals that favored him. Major Frank Holmes was from New Zealand, sturdy and robust in stature, and a headstrong man. He discovered the oil seepages on the Arabian coast of the Persian Gulf and ended up developing business activities in the Middle East.

The main themes brought out in the book are political instability and power. Political instability is evident in the war that was between France and Germany. It grew more prominent as more nations joined in forming the Central Powers and the Allied Powers. The war was disastrous for both the vanquished and the victors of the war. It resulted in the death of over thirteen million people and many others were left injured and displaced. Yergin mentions how the French government alongside the civilians were forced to evacuate Paris leaving the city unguarded in most areas. The theme of power is brought about when the author states that everything was not settled after the end of the war. Each nation wanted to possess oil in large quantities. Oil had become a symbol of sovereignty and those who had it believed that it would boost their economic prosperity and their nation's power.

The writing style and conclusion

The book was written formally. After reading it, I realized that Yergin took his time to discuss the events that took place in the Allied Powers more than he explained the Centered Powers. He later provided enough information on the history of oil. The book offers enough details on the events that took place during and after the First World War and how it affected the economies of the involved countries. Yergin's tone is formal, and he writes his book based on facts.

In conclusion, I believe that Daniel Yergin's "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power" is a good read and I would recommend it for any reader that seeks to know the world affairs and the history of oil. Yergin provides detailed information on how and when the quest for oil began. He goes further to explain the events that took place during the First World War and how oil gained its importance internationally. The book has been revised severally to address the ongoing energy crisis.

October 24, 2023

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World War I

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