Oil and World Power | Wilson Center

Oil and World Power

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Webcast Recap

During the twentieth century oil was essential to military power and economic strength, and was thus a key element in determining the relative power of nations. Struggles over oil were an important focus of rivalry among the great powers, and a significant source of conflict between oil-consuming countries and oil-producing nations. Possession of ample domestic supplies and control over access to foreign oil reserves were significant, and often overlooked, elements in the hegemonic position of the United States to its rivals.

David S. Painter teaches international history at Georgetown University. His publications include Oil and the American Century (1986), Origins of the Cold War (co-editor, 1994), and The Cold War (1999).

Painter is currently working on a study of oil and world power in the twentieth century.


  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center