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234 × 156 mm
264 pages
59 illustrations
01 Aug 2017

Empires and Anarchies A History of Oil in the Middle East Michael Quentin Morton

The Middle East 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 about not only the great discoveries but the transformation of people and societies, the empires built on oil and the anarchies it has engendered.

From the first explorers trudging through the desert wastes to the excesses of the Peacock Throne and the high stakes of OPEC, the burnt-out remains of Saddam Hussein’s armies and the human tragedy of the Arab Spring, Empires and Anarchies describes the history of oil in all its aspects: how it enriched and fractured the Middle East, eroding traditional ways of life and facilitating the rise of Islamic radicalism.

Michael Quentin Morton’s account presents a fascinating insight into the historical background of the region through the people and politics of oil. It is 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.

‘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.’ – Law Society Gazette

‘Morton has managed to set out a thorough, well-researched and lucid account of the whole complicated story in an enjoyably readable style . . . The turmoil in the oil industry through the years of OPEC dominance and the conflicts in the region which impacted on international relationships and world oil markets are all well summarised. So too are the origins of the rivalries between the main national entities of the region which are being played out in today’s world. This provides all the background essential to a full understanding of today’s antagonisms in the Middle East.’ – Asian Affairs

‘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

‘An excellent, readable introduction to the history and development of oil in the Middle East . . . 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

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Michael Quentin Morton grew up in Qatar, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in the 1950s and ’60s. He has written a number of books on the history of the Middle East, including Keepers of the Golden Shore: A History of the United Arab Emirates (Reaktion, 2016).