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This seminar considers how oil shaped grand strategy in Great Britain and Germany between 1918 and 1941. The history of oil in the twentieth century is a chapter in the story of European decline, for the emergence of oil accelerated the decline of Britain and Germany as great powers capable of independently exerting their economic and military power.

Having fought WWI with oil from the United States, Britain was determined to avoid basing its energy security upon the goodwill of another great power. After 1918, Britain undertook a policy of developing alternative sources of oil under British control. London hoped that Britain's major supplier would be the Middle East, already a region of vital importance to the British Empire. Britain's failure to achieve energy independence before WWII presaged its postwar relegation to the status of a client of the United States.

The Third Reich based its oil policy on fuel synthesized from coal and imports from Romania. By 1939, German policymakers were confident they had enough oil to fight a war against the Allies and eventually the Soviets. Victory would allow Germany to occupy the oilfields of the Caucasus and the Middle East and finally become a world power. These plans began to falter soon after the defeat of France. An escalating fuel crisis in Axis Europe, a lack of strategic alternatives, and the imperatives of Nazi ideology, all compelled the Third Reich to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941 to seize enough resources to fight Britain and the United States before the balance of power turned against Germany.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.