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I thought that others might be interested in a read of a synopsis of the pre-war inter imperialist rivalries offered by F W Engdahl that places the struggle for the control of oil reserves in the domain of the decomposing Ottoman Empire within the context of the build up to war.

I have certain reservations about the argument and certain propositions advanced about the Great Depression 1873-1896, the Boer War being prompted by the goal of retaining control over the Transvaal goldfields and the export of capital.

It is, however, a good romp and I would be interested in the views of others on the thesis advanced.

http://www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net/Hist..._of_world_w.HTM

Regards

Mel

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Stanley_C_Jenkins

My initial response to this version of events concerns the curious assertion that Admiral Fisher wished to convert the British navy from coal-firing to "diesel motors" (sic). I thought the object was to introduce a fleet of turbine-propelled, all-big-gun ships fuelled by oil-fired furnaces? If the author makes such a basic mistake, how reliable are the rest of his arguments?

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That`s not the way I read it, Stanley. Fisher was putting forward the argument for diesel propulsion in 1882 and giving low smoke diesel engines as an example. He didn`t say then that RN ships would necessarily have diesels.

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I'm a year into researching a PhD on British Strategy & Oil 1914-24. It was originally meant to cover just the war but it soon became apparent that what Britain did after the war as a result of its lessons was highly significant, so the period was extended.

Fisher saw ships fuelled by oil fired furnaces as a first step towards the eventual use of diesel engines as the propulsion of warships. Before WWI the diesel engine hadn't reached a sufficient stage of development for examples big enough for warships to be built. In event many merchantmen but few warships were built with diesel engines. The German pocket battleships of WWII had diesel engines & some Allied escort carriers converted from merchantmen retained their diesel engines. One reason why most warships didn't have diesel engines is that the Washington Treaty of 1922 limited the displacement of warships & the measure of displacement used, standard displacement, excluded fuel. For the same performance a diesel engine would be heavier than a steam engine but would require less fuel. Thus, everything else being equal, a diesel powered warship would have a higher standard displacement than a steam powered one, although it would have a smaller displacement including fuel.

I've read Engdahl's book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, & wasn't impressed. He makes some factual errors, such as placing the Maginot Line in WWI & claiming that German coal fired ships were faster than British ones because of superior German technology. They weren't: German ships were slower but better armoured. He quotes some inflated figures for the performance of the Von der Tann. He doesn't source them but they're the same as given by a 1920s book called The Oil War by Anton Mohr; numerous more recent books would show these to be wrong. He misses out facts inconvenient to his hypothesis, such as the agreement over the Baghdad Railway signed by Britain & Germany just before the war. Given the subject of his book, he says remarkably little about WWII. I couldn't help suspecting that it was too hard to portray the Anglo-Americans as the villains in WWII so he glossed over it.

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per ardua per mare per terram

QUOTE (Phil_B @ Aug 22 2008, 08:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That`s not the way I read it, Stanley. Fisher was putting forward the argument for diesel propulsion in 1882

Do you have a reference for this? I can't find any (even wiki) that show that the diesel was even invented by 1882.

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per ardua per mare per terram

Fisher's intervention in the 1880s was disaterous, there was no need to engage in an arms race at that point.

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Stanley_C_Jenkins

I was not aware that Admiral Fisher had ever argued for the introduction of internal combustion engines in the 1880s, and while this may indeed have been the case, the fact remains that Britain's interest in the Persian oil fields was prompted by the introduction of oil-fired, turbine-propelled Dreadnoughts, which were themselves built to meet the threat from a rapidly-arming Germany. However, the point about diesel motors was just one of a series of half-truths and dubious assumptions which were presented as "facts" in this opinionated and very poor piece of work. Why, for example, are we led to believe that German industries were "superior" in any way to their British counterparts - what is the evidence? It is true that the Germans had a major lead in the optical and chemical industries, but were their turbine engines any good? How quickly could they build them? Whose railway locomotives held the speed records? The Germans? Surely not.

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Fisher claimed to have been known as the 'Oil Maniac' since the 1880s in a letter of 26 March 1902 to Lord Selborne which is included in Vol. I of Fear God and Dread Naught, the published edition of his correspondence edited by Arthur J. Marder. He could not have advocated the use of the diesel engine in the 1880s as it was not patented until 1893. He did argue in favour of diesel engined battleships in 2 letters sent to Lord Esher in September 1912, which are printed in Vol II of Fear God and Dread Naught.

Although Engdahl is correct that Fisher advocated diesel powered battleships, he implies that Fisher did so much earlier than was actually the case. I agree with Stanley's claim that Engdahl makes a 'a series of half-truths and dubious assumptions which were presented as "facts" in this opinionated and very poor piece of work.' Engdahl starts with the assumption that Germany was superior & Britain wanted to put her down & then fits everything into this theory rather than proving the initial hypothesis. He makes too many factual errors to suggest that this is a well researched piece of work & uses rather out dated sources.

I based my earlier post on my notes from Engdahl's book rather than the website linked by Mel. I now see that Engdahl does mention the Anglo-German Agreement of June 1914 on the website but glosses over it. In his book he didn't even mention it.

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I seem to recall reading that England got the lion's share of its oil from Mexico immediately previous to WW1. Cheers, Bill

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I seem to recall reading that England got the lion's share of its oil from Mexico immediately previous to WW1 and that German interference in Mexico was aimed as much as anything at closing down the Tampico oil port. Cheers, Bill

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Stanley_C_Jenkins

As a matter of interest, is Mr Engdahl a German? (or a German-American). There must be some explanation for his anti-British tirade. And why does he refer to "England" when he presmably means "The United Kingdom". I note that he makes no such error when dealing with the position of Prussia vis-a-vis united Germany.

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I seem to recall reading that England got the lion's share of its oil from Mexico immediately previous to WW1 and that German interference in Mexico was aimed as much as anything at closing down the Tampico oil port. Cheers, Bill

Mexico strted to export oil in 1911. Before that, Burmah Oil had created the Anglo Persian Oil company. British companies with an eye to Turkish oil holdings. I doubt if Mexico figured largely in the British Navy's calculations. Plenty of oil in the middle east.

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During WWI most British oil came from the USA, although some was imported from Mexico. Despite being a net exporter of oil, however, the USA was also importing oil from Mexico. Thus, a disruption to Mexican exports would have affected Allied supplies significantly since US oil would have switched from exports to domestic demand, whilst prices would have risen. I've not heard of oil as a motive in the German offer made to Mexico in the Zimmermann Telegram & would be grateful for a source. Mexico became in 1917 the first country to write into its constitution that underground resources belonged to the state. This brought it into conflict with American & British oil companies, which were backed by their governments. The problem for the Mexicans was that they needed the oil companies' technical expertise so couldn't throw them out.

Middle East oil became more significant for Britain after the war. In WWI the USA had happily sold oil to anybody who would pay for & transport it. It might not be so willing in a future conflict. Even if it was, just after the war it was widely expected that US production was about to decline & that rising domestic demand might make the US a net importer. In the event, thanks partly to improved technology. a number of large discoveries were made in the USA in the 1920s. Persian oil production was only just starting during WWI; it rose from 9,900 barrels per day in 1915 to 93,300 in 1925. Although it was widely assumed before WWI that Iraq had oil, because of similar geology to Persia & instances of oil seepage, it wasn't actually discovered until 1927. Oil wasn't found in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia until 1938.

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The Admiralty encouraged the development of the West Lothian shale oil mining industrybefore the Great War, with the oil refined at Grangemouth and, of course, Rosyth close by.

Phil

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