Oil Exploration, Diplomacy, and Security in the Early Cold War : The Enemy Underground book cover
1st Edition

Oil Exploration, Diplomacy, and Security in the Early Cold War
The Enemy Underground

ISBN 9780367275297
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
308 Pages

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Book Description

The importance of oil for national military-industrial complexes appeared more clearly than ever in the Cold War. This volume argues that the confidential acquisition of geoscientific knowledge was paramount for states, not only to provide for their own energy needs, but also to buttress national economic and geostrategic interests and protect energy security.

By investigating the postwar rebuilding and expansion of French and Italian oil industries from the second half of the 1940s to the early 1960s, this book shows how successive administrations in those countries devised strategies of oil exploration and transport, aiming at achieving a higher degree of energy autonomy and setting up powerful oil agencies that could implement those strategies. However, both within and outside their national territories, these two European countries had to confront the new Cold War balances and the interests of the two superpowers.

Table of Contents


1. The Allied Shadow: International Pressures and the Italian Oil Industry

2. From Iraq to Africa: the Quest for French Energy

3. Oil Diplomacy in Wartime Algeria

4. The Midstream Shift

5. Transnational Counterattack Against Soviet Oil Plans



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Roberto Cantoni is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow within the Security

Studies Chair at CERI, Sciences Po, and an Associate Researcher at

LATTS—IFRIS, France. In 2014 he defended his PhD on oil exploration,

diplomacy and security at the University of Manchester, UK. In the same

year he won the Society for the History of Technology’s Levinson Prize. He

currently works on the politics of epistemic vulnerability in the nuclear age.


"What is "petroleum" if not the quintessential diplomacy device of the last one hundred years? Cantoni shows that its exploration mobilized Western intelligence agents; permits to extract cast the struggle for post-colonial independence of key African states; and piping technologies unnerved NATO officials at the height of the Cold War. Admirably researched, this book takes the reader on an amazing journey through the underworld of surveillance operations and secret negotiations that the global quest for controlling the "black gold" defined; a compelling study for anyone interested in twentieth-century history and its international dimensions."

Simone Turchetti, The University of Manchester, UK

"Robert Cantoni’s study is valuable in reminding historians of the centrality of oil prospecting to broader diplomatic intrigues during the Cold War and of the intimate connection between hydrocarbons, international diplomacy, surveillance, and energy security."

Jeremy Kuzmarov, University of Tulsa, US