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A Comparative History of National Oil Companies


Edited By Alain Beltran

Oil is undoubtedly rather more than a mere hydrocarbon. It is a development factor, an essential element in energy balances, a strategic weapon, a resource characterized by unequal distribution, and also by unequal consumption. For more than a century now, it has showed its importance, whether during periods of crisis, or at times of strong growth.
Under such circumstances, few countries have allowed mere market laws to operate freely. Whether visible or discreet, the hand of the State has been present in many cases, depending on different purposes and taking various forms. Hence national companies developed, if only in order to deal with the Majors and their greatly feared power. One finds examples of national companies both in Western Europe and in certain developing countries that have substantial resources on their soil. Those companies did not all experience the same destiny, but they have sometimes influenced the rules of the oil game.
The colloquium held in Paris in 2003 («National oil companies: history, characteristics, comparisons from the inter-war period to the end of the 20 th century») provided some new facts and viewpoints in connection with this history, still relatively unknown.
You will read contributions here from various horizons making it possible to illuminate the present and the near future, since oil industry issues continue to challenge the world.


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PART I FOUNDING ELEMENTS 13 The Sources of Oil History Total Group’s Historical Archives Anne-Thérèse MICHEL Total Archives This presentation of Total Group’s historical archives owes a great debt to our predecessor, Hervé l’Huillier, who did pioneering work on a solid foundation, helped by Steffen Deutschbein for more than 20 years. In presenting these sources, we will highlight their interest and their importance for understanding oil and energy history. We will first brief you on the structure and nature of the documen- tary holdings, recalling the way they were developed and their main characteristics: periods and sectors covered, specific features, and gaps, if any. We will then mention the way all this has been used, both exter- nally by historians and researchers and for in-house initiatives in con- nection with communication operations, the difficulty of using such records and the archivist’s role in trying to make them more accessible. Finally, with our knowledge of those holdings, we will try to suggest possible lines of research in a field of history that has not yet been much explored in France. 1. Development of the Holdings 1.1. The Importance of the Group’s History in the History of the Petroleum Sector It is first of all because of their relative longevity that these records need to be used to understand French oil history in the 20th century. The history of Total Group as it stands just after two important mergers, the one of Total and Petrofina, and then Total Fina and...

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