Revisiting the Nationalization of Iranian Oil Industry: A View From Below

Guest lecture by Professor Touraj Atabaki, International Institute of Social History, Netherland.

The extraction of oil in 1908 and the unprecedented expansion of the oil refinery, shipping docks and company towns in southwest Persia/Iran opened a new chapter in the Persian/Iranian labour history. Having enjoyed an absolute monopoly on the extraction, production and marketing of Iran’s oil, for almost fifty years, the Anglo-Persian/Iranian Oil Company (APOC, AIOC, now British Petroleum; BP) emerged as one of the major players in Iranian politics during the first half of the twentieth century. The history of BP’s hegemony in the Iranian oil industry ended in 1951 when the Iranian government under premiership of Dr Mosaddeq nationalized the industry.

The history of nationalization of Iranian oil industry has been the subject of a number of major studies. However, most of these studies are primarily crafted along the political developments in 1940s Iran with accent on the history of state relationship with the oil company. My contribution to the understanding of history of the nationalization of oil industry in Iran differs, insofar as I attempt to provide a history of the nationalization from below, investigating the interactions between all major players meaning the civil society at large, oil workers, the oil company and the Iranian state.

This study is based on a larger research project on the social history of labour in the Iranian oil industry (1908-2008) currently underway at the International Institute of Social History Amsterdam.

Touraj Atabaki is senior research fellow at the International Institute of Social History.

Graduated first in theoretical physics and then history, Touraj Atabaki is the author of Azerbaijan: Ethnicity and the Struggle for Powers in Iran (London: I.B. Tauris, 1993), of Beyond Essentialism. Who writes whose Past in the Middle East and Central Asia? (Amsterdam: Aksant, 2003), co-editor, with Erik Jan Zürcher, of Men of Order, Authoritarian Modernisation in Turkey and Iran (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004) and co-editor, with Sanjyot Mehendale, of Central Asia and the Caucasus: Transnationalism and Diaspora (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006), The State and the subaltern: Society and Politics in Turkey and Iran (London: I.B. Tauris, 2007), Iran in the Twentieth Century. Historiography and Political Culture (London: I.B. Tauris, 2009), Modernity and its Agencies. Young Movements in the History of the South (New Delhi: Manohar, 2010) and Atabaki, T. & Brockett, G. D. (Eds.) Ottoman and Labour History (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Touraj Atabaki is the coordinator of a research project on the hundred years social history of labour in the Iranian oil industry, funded by the Netherlands for Scientific Research. His current work focuses on historiography of everyday life and comparative labor and subaltern history in Iran and former Soviet south.

Admittance DKK 20,- Tea and coffee will be served.


Claus Valling Pedersen