Colloquium - The Illusions of Independence: Texas Oilmen and the Politics of Postwar Petroleum
April 15, 2005
12:00PM - 12:00PM (EDT)
Karen Merrill, Professor of History, Williams College
This paper examines a critical if forgotten moment in twentieth-century American history: when a government-sponsored geological mission confirmed the existence of vast oil reserves in the Persian Gulf region, and especially Saudi Arabia, in 1944. While Roosevelt's administration sought ways to involve the government itself in the Saudi concession, American oilmen were forced to reckon with the implications of the news. Not surprisingly, oilmen from the Southwest--namely, Texas and Oklahoma --played a powerful role in the political debate about what course the United States should take as it potentially looked toward the Middle East for its oil. In comparing two sets of actors in this debate, the paper explores the ways that shared ideas about "independence" infused even rival understandings of what it meant for American oil companies to operate in the Middle East.