States, firms, and oil : British policy, 1939-54
New evidence from the records of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now British Petroleum) and Shell for the period, 1939-45 supplements accounts of British oil relations based on state archives. This historical account demonstrates the continuity between the interwar industry cartel and the Allied wartime collaboration orchestrated through industry committees. The companies made use of their quasi-official position to manage crisis of prewar arrangements aggravated by the war which presaged the rapid expansion of postwar Middle East production. The companies then shaped the Anglo-American Oil Agreements of 1944 and 1945, establishing a basis for remaking their position in the Middle East, expanding the web of interfirm relations. The nationalisation of Anglo- Iranian in 1951 threatened the web and the companies were able to embargo nationalised Iranian oil and thus bankrupt the state. This society of oil majors was constituted by shared understandings and interests cultivated by the companies. Structures of private governance may be quite significant factors for states allied to them. The United Kingdom was more closely tied into the system of private governance that prevailed in international oil in the middle decades of the century than was the United States and consequently was able to call on more resources to resist United States initiatives during this period. British influence persisted in the oil issue-area, in spite of greater United States resources overall, because of this close working relationship between state and companies. Close examination of the relationship reveals the extent of penetration by the companies into both the decision-malting and implementation of foreign relations. The `national' interest was thus articulated through an interplay of Governmental and corporate agendas, and this supports a general argument that `national' power is not exercised solely by the state, but by the state in cooperation with other powerful social institutions. Non-state actors and their archives may enrich the study of foreign relations.