In the Fields of Oil: Tribes, Empire, and the Development of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, 1901-1911

Arash Khazeni, Assistant Professor of History, Claremont McKenna College.

In 1908, a British company with the exclusive rights to develop petroleum resources in Iran made the first commercial discovery of oil in the Middle East at Maidan-i Naftun ("The Field of Oil"). The exploration for oil and the subsequent development of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company transformed environment and society in the tribal hinterland of Iran. In the oil fields, the company encountered the pastoral nomadic Bakhtiyari tribes, for whom oil marked the arrival of the modern world. Losing access to pastures and becoming workers in the oil fields, the Bakhtiyari tribes were disciplined and settled in the process. By the First World War, when the British Empire had attained a majority share of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, some claimed that the science of oil had made "the tribesmen tame." Based on company records and ethnographic sources, Professor Arash Khazeni's talk will explore the politics of oil and an important moment in early twentieth century globalism through the intersection of history and anthropology.

Wednesday, February 15th, 4:15 p.m.

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