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EH.N: CfP: A comparative History of National Oil Companies
by Mark Douglas Whitaker
02 December 2002 20:55 UTC
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----------------- EH.NEWS POSTING -----------------
 >From the interwar period to the end of the 20th century 27th and 28th 
November 2003

There can be little doubt that oil is far more than a mere hydrocarbon: a 
development factor; an essential element in the balance of energy 
resources; a strategic weapon; an unequally distributed resource. Over more 
than a century, it has demonstrated its importance, both during periods of 
crisis or rapid growth. This finite, non-renewable resource, still manages 
to be an infinite source of contention, being at the center of many of the 
current debates concerning pollution and the environment. Unsurprisingly, 
few countries have ever let free market forces entirely shape the 
development of their national demand for, and supply of, oil. Whether 
visible or hidden, the hand of the state has been active in several 
countries, its means and methods varying according to the aims and 
requirements of the time. In this respect, were not the national oil 
companies themselves developed to confront and resist the power of the 
Majors? Examples of national concerns can be found just as ofte!
n in Western Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Belgium.) as in certain 
developing countries (Algeria, Mexico, Brazil, Iran.) In developing their 
national resources, while these companies may not have shared the same 
destiny as the Majors, they have, to some extent, influenced the rules of 
the oil game.

The task of historians, in this as in other fields, is to explain, to 
diffuse and to put into perspective the history of the petroleum industry. 
The archives are open, the works accumulate, and the research continues. 
However, the history of the French oil industry remains a comparatively 
under-explored topic compared with the progress made in other countries, in 
particular those hosting Majors. Nonetheless, in addition to the pioneering 
research of André Nouschi, recent work (with the material assistance of the 
current single French national, and previously, several separate oil 
companies) has shed a great deal of light on the development of this 
industry in France. It is with the intention of furthering these recent 
developments in the field that we are organizing a conference on "National 
Oil Companies", which will focus largely, but not exclusively, on Western 
Europe. Europe as an area of high consumption and low production(apart from 
the oil production in Romania, Galic!
ie and later the North Sea) has managed - through individuals such as 
Pierre Guillaumat and Enrico Mattei- to alter radically the topography of 
the international petroleum market by inaugurating new relations with a 
select number of producer countries. With the exception of the Majors, 
however, we will not be concentrating directly on the "Independents" during 
this symposium.

What remains of the political ambitions that once gave birth to the 
national oil companies at the time of the great capitalist concentrations? 
Can the " national " model (to the extent that we can speak of a model) be 
a perennial reality or will it, by necessity, be consigned to the dustbin 
of history? Is a typology of the national oil industry possible? And is it 
practical? The proposed conference will investigate the studies and 
conclusions of a variety of researchers (mainly though not exclusively 
historians) concerning the politics of the public petroleum industry as it 
has developed over the last century. The themes which we will consider will 

* Management of the Nationals (the leaders, the personnel, the distribution 
of capital.)

* Political strategies:
   - State powers: national legislation, forms of protectionism, 
interventionist and liberal phases.
   - Goals: national independence, the exploitation and regimentation of 
countries' resources (prospecting, industrial diversification.).

* Major events and their consequences (wars, international crises, internal 

* The international environment (relations with the other Nationals, with 
the Majors, with the independents, and with the producer countries.).

Conference proposals should be sent to Alain Beltran (details below). They 
must include a brief C.V. and a short summary (1 page) in English or in 
French. A committee has been established and charged with the review and 
selection of the conference papers. Another committee, based in the 
"Institut d'Histoire du Temps Present" (CNRS), will take care of the 
organization and the general running of the conference. The conference will 
be held on the 27th and 28th of November 2003 and will be conducted in 
French and English. The organizers will cover accommodation expenses and, 
as far as they are able, travel costs. The proceedings will be published 
soon after the conference.

Please send proposals to:

Alain Beltran
Directeur de recherche au CNRS
Institut d'histoire du temps présent (CNRS)
61 avenue du Président-Wilson
94 235 Cachan cedex, France

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