British Find Oil in Persia
The 26th of May 1908 AD
At four in the morning on May 26 1908 the strategic importance of the Middle East changed irrevocably. The search for oil, begun by investor William D’Arcy in 1901, had finally stuck black gold some 1200 feet below ground at a site near Masjid-i-Suleiman in the south west of Persia. This oil was significant not as fuel for cars, a mode of transport in its infancy; but for the world’s naval fleets, a more effective replacement for coal.
D’Arcy, born in Newton Abbot , had made his first fortune mining gold of the metallic variety in Australia. Having returned to London in 1886 he lived like a king, but by the turn of the century needed to re-secure his financial position. He jumped at the chance to obtain an oil concession in Persia in spite of that country’s dubious reputation in financial matters. Negotiations with the Shah concluded with a deal splitting future revenue, paying the ruler £20,000, and granting him shares in the exploration company.
Well before the strike D’Arcy had been forced to bring in other investors, the Scottish company Burmah Oil. Once the find was made these two formed The Anglo-Persian Oil Company, one of the forerunners of British Petroleum.
The manager charged with finding the oil, George Reynolds, was in fact ordered by his superiors to pack up and quit in early May as funds were all but exhausted. He dragged his feet and was rewarded with the first Persian gusher before the month was out. More swiftly followed.
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