Author(s): Daniel YerginDownload
The Prize recounts the panoramic history of oil — and the struggle for wealth and power that has always surrounded oil. This struggle has shaken the world economy, dictated the outcome of wars, and transformed the destiny of men and nations.The Prize is as much a history of the twentieth century as of the oil industry itself. The canvas of history is enormous — from the drilling of the first well in Pennsylvania through two great world wars to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Operation Desert Storm.
Some Reviews: 746 in Goodreads.com
Very voluminous, that makes me happy. I am usually fed up with modern books with large margins and font size and fewer pages. This was the opposite in all those criteria.
A dramatic and glueing narrative of oil. It starts with its discovery and ends in about 1991. It leaves me wanting for more. I have started reading and understanding news about two years ago, so I feel like a sucker for the narrative being extended till today. The most exciting thriller drama you could read. Reality is better than fiction, all it takes is a good storyteller.
Reading this book was a monthslong journey that took place over an attempt at a cross country bike ride and then living out of airbnb’s for months while we found a more permanent rental. I’m glad I read the book (although unclear how much of that feeling is attributable to Stockholm syndrome effects of undertaking a 900+ page book).
This book changed my understanding of world history and the place that oil holds. The book is written clearly and chronologically, with a good blend of foreshadowing and highlighting of key decisions. There’s a mix of forgettable corporate gossip (who merged with who) and fascinating strategic analysis of resources (turns out winning a war is hard when your logistics supply chain is shit – I now have a greater appreciation for some of the game mechanics in Civ). If you want to read only a single section, I thoroughly enjoyed the WWII section – there’s a lot of close calls/what ifs that lead the reader to imagine an alternate future.
I came away with a better understanding of the messiness of the rise and fall of toxic colonialism and the resulting nationalism, the impact of oil on economic development for both the importers and exporters, the rise of the Middle East, the repeated failures of the market in pricing oil sustainably (imagine a game of massive coordination where cheating is highly rewarded and hard to catch). The names that you come across in the book read like a greatest hits list with Nobel, Rothschild, Armand Hammer, Getty, Mellon, Rockefeller, Churchill, Yamani all making an appearance. Unfortunately, there were only three women detailed in the coverage of 150 years of history; Ida Tarbell, Wanda Jablonski, Margaret Thatcher, only one of whom played a decision making role.
If you have the time and the will to take on an epic and want to learn of an alternate retelling of history through the lens of oil or if you’re looking for a new doorstop, I highly recommend this book.
This magnum opus reads like Game of Thrones albeit without the dragons. Detailing the evolution of oil’s role in world politics and warfare, The Prize lays bare the entirety of the human psyche. Illuminating the inevitable, terrible interplay between tyrannical governments and dictatorships, multi-national oil corporations and the end user that keeps the industry churning and the industrial world at large, thriving. The indispensable role that oil has enjoyed over the past 150 years allows the study of its journey to be a far greater examination of the deep seated machinations in human society in the strife for the titular money and power. There is nary an event that has taken place on the global platform in the 20th century that was exclusive of oil and oil matters and thus, vitally, this books is able to illustrate how the world has come around to being the way we know it to be today. Despite being over a thousand pages long, the author manages to imbue the proceedings with a style that is engaging and most importantly, pointedly mindful of the larger narrative that ties all the individual “international oil men” and wars and Presidents together. Ultimately, it is in equal parts the epic story of oil itself, and the exhaustively detailed, endlessly engaging prose that make The Prize a must read.
The Prize is a commanding masterpiece; a true tour de force of knowledge.
Simply put, geopolitics matters much more than almost everyone thinks and oil was historically at the centre of this. This book, while weaving a compelling and engaging narrative, makes the reader acutely aware how much geopolitics matters.
While this book easily deserves 5 stars, it suffers from two potential problems.
1. I think was slightly overwritten and could have been shorter.
2. While The Prize is incredibly illuminating, I fear it will make most readers have a less accurate understanding of the world. The book tells the history of major events through the perspective of oil. While the impact of oil is an important perspective to understand, understanding oil is not sufficient for one to understand nearly any of the conflicts discussed in the book. I suspect readers who are not knowledgable about the events in this book will believe everything can be explained through oil (and what they learned in The Prize), which is simply false.
This book is an epic in itself – not only because of the subject and content, but also because of its sheer size.
The prize is a book about the history of oil, compiled by the author in meticulous detail right from the late 19th century. As you start going through the book, you realize that (as advertized), this is not merely covering the history of oil, but that of humanity itself.
A number of aspects served as an eye-opener for me, including the integral role of oil in the world wars, as well as in overall modern geopolitics. It is not an exaggeration to say that oil played some part in almost every single historically significant event of the last 150 years.
This book gets 5/5 from me for its content. But it gets 3/5 for its editing. At 900+ pages, it is extremely lengthy, and gets unnecessarily stretchy at several points. I wish this book had been half its current length, and then it would have been perfect!
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