The Prize: My Book Report

Daniel Yergin's 928 page magnum opus, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, is the story of oil, and it's role in world history, from the beginning to about 1991, with an epilogue that notes some of the events of the next twenty years. Yergin is a gifted writer and story teller, with an eye for the telling anecdote, as well as remarkably comprehensive.

The central theme is the tale of how oil went from being an obscure, if remarkable, curiosity to major commodity and maker of great fortunes, to the central commodity and strategic objective of the modern world. Modern man, says Yergin, is Hydrocarbon Man, and oil is central to almost all his works. Modern civilization was built on cheap, readily available, and highly transportable energy, oil has been fundamental to all that. Oil was a central point of contention of the two great wars of the twentieth century, and a major factor in dozens of others. It is deeply implicated in the present turmoils in the Middle East and Africa.

I have talked a good deal about the book and its story in my previous posts (see below), but the point I want to make here is that it's a really good book, and probably an essential one if you want to understand how the world has worked and continues to work in the modern age. If you are looking for reinforcement of your cartoons of evil oil companies and western colonialism here, this may not be your book. There are plenty of nefarious characters and deeds chronicled, but the story is far more subtle and human than that. It's also a story of courage, ingenuity, luck, prescience and folly - all the ingredients of a great story and a great history.

My previous posts about Daniel Yergin's book: The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, are to be found here.


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