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The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is Daniel Yergin's 800-page history of the global oil industry from the 1850s through 1990. The Prize benefited from extraordinary timing: published in October 1990, two months after the invasion of Kuwaitmarker ordered by Saddam Hussein and three months before the U.S.-led coalition unleashed the Gulf War to oust Iraqimarker troops from that country, the book's theme of the historical centrality of what its subtitle calls "the epic quest for oil, money, and power" was in tune with the zeitgeist; the book became a number-one bestseller in the United States and won a Pulitzer Prize. The Prize has been called the "definitive" history of the oil industry, even a "bible" ; some critics, though, consider the book too sympathetic to the perspective of the oil industry, of which the author is, in a way, a part. The Prize was the basis for a six hour documentary television series titled "The Prize - The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power", narrated by Donald Sutherland. The series is frequently used as a source material in Middle Eastern studies classes and is said to have been seen by 20 million people in the United States.

Popular success

In 1992 The Prize won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. and has been translated into fourteen languages. Now out of print in hardcover, The Prize was published in a paperback edition (ISBN 0-671-79932-0) that was released at the end of 1992, and is currently in print. The Prize is often cited as essential background reading for students of the history of petroleum. Prof. Joseph R. Rudolph Jr. said in Library Journal, for example, that The Prize, "written by one of the foremost U.S. authorities on energy, . . . is a major work in the field, replete with enough insight to satisfy the scholar and sufficient concern with the drama and colorful personalities in the history of oil to capture the interest of the general public. Though lengthy, the book never drags in developing its themes: the relationship of oil to the rise of modern capitalism; the intertwining relations between oil, politics, and international power; and the relationship between oil and society in what Yergin calls today's age of 'Hydrocarbon Man'."


Seven years in the making, The Prize draws on extensive research carried out by the author and his staff, including Sue Lena Thompson, Robert Laubacher, and Geoffrey Lumsden. Daniel Yergin has excellent connections with the oil industry, and is the Chairman of a private energy consulting firm called Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Global Energy Analyst for NBC and CNBC, member of the board of the United States Energy Association and of the U.S.-Russian Business Council. Yergin's history has 61 pages of notes and a bibliography of 26 pages that lists as sources not only 700 books, articles, and dissertations, 60 government documents, 28 "data sources," more than 34 manuscript collections, fifteen government archives, eight oral histories, and four oil company archives (Amoco, Chevron, Gulf, and Royal Dutch Shell), but also 80 personal interviews with key individuals like James Schlesinger and Armand Hammer. These interviews are often the source of striking anecdotes and make the volume what may be considered in some ways an "inside" history of the oil industry.


  1. (Matthew Yeomans, Oil: Anatomy of an Industry [New York & London: New Press, 2004], ISBN 1-56584-885-3, p. 220)

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