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Crude Britannia

Crude Britannia

How Oil Shaped a Nation

James Marriott, Terry Macalister

The UK is a land shaped by oil. How does that impact its past, present and future? 

Taking the reader on a journey from North East Scotland, Merseyside and South Wales to the Thames Estuary and London, this is the story of Britain's oil-drenched past, present and future; of a black gold empire built on financial power, political meddling and environmental destruction.

For decades, BP and Shell extracted the minerals, finance and skills of the UK. Working behind the scenes, Big Oil profoundly influenced the country's culture. Then, at the start of the 21st century, the tide seemed to go out - Britain's refineries were quietly closed; the North Sea oilfields declined. Now, while the country goes through the seismic upheavals of Brexit and the climate emergency, many believe the age of oil to be over. But is it?

The authors speak to oil company executives and traders, as well as refinery workers, filmmakers and musicians, activists and politicians, putting real people at the heart of a compelling story.

James Marriott is the co-author of The Oil Road (Verso, 2012) and The Next Gulf (Constable, 2005).

Terry Macalister is the former Energy Editor of the Guardian.

'Tells you all you need to know about oil's part in the industrialisation and deindustrialisation of Britain - how lives were built, how they were destroyed and how we now need to urgently build a green, just and sustainable economy'

- Rebecca Long-Bailey MP

'Dripping with delicious detail'


'Superbly illustrates how the UK's toxic relationship with oil has defined our politics, our lives and our culture. An engrossing read'

- Jon King, Gang of Four

'A vivid, compelling and very human account of how big oil has infiltrated our lives, the people it's enriched and those it's abandoned'

- Caroline Lucas MP

'Compelling. [...] Marriott and Macalister take on the roles of sleuth, archaeologist, and witness to tell a story of oil, money and politics which changed millions of people's lives'

- Madeleine Bunting, author of 'Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey' (Granta, 2017)

'As a former oil geologist who worked offshore during the heyday of the North Sea oil boom, I was transported back to those times. This book beautifully captures the mood and spirit of the time, and with a forensic approach it unravels the various political and financial events that took place between the UK government and the oil companies'

- Tim Fairs, former Oil Geologist for Chevron

'Truly remarkable. [...] a unique insight into Britain's role and experiences in an oil addicted world'

- Herbert Girardet, Executive Committee Member, Club of Rome

'A marvellously rich account of how the oil industry has come to shape contemporary Britain'

- David Beetham, Emeritus Professor of Politics at Leeds

'Told with passion and wit, this is a brilliantly original account of oil's lasting national imprint'

- Gavin Bridge, Professor of Geography, Durham University

‘A poignant and wonderfully crafted journey that connects the oil industries and global capitalism with local stories. The authors are thoughtful storytellers guiding us through this journey’

- Farzana Khan, writer and Executive Director of Healing Justice London

List of Maps and Table
List of Tracks
Prologue: The Last Living Rose
PART I: 1940–1979
1. The Whole World Was Aflame
روشنايي آسمانها .2 : The Brightness of the Heavens
3. Baby, You Can Drive My Car
4. Dirt Behind the Daydream
5. Only One Road to Paradise
PART II: 1979–2008
6. And If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
7. Tuireadh: Lament
8. Suude ne gbo gima de: The Eye of the Blind
9. Local Hero
10. Stanlow
PART III: 2008–2020
11. This Bitter Earth
12. Rough Trade
13. Nexus of Outrage
14. Heading for Extinction
Epilogue: The Commonwealth of Wind
Selected Bibliography

Published by Pluto Press in May 2021
Hardcover ISBN: 9780745341095
eBook ISBN: 9781786806390

448 pages

150mm x 230mm

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