Breaking Rockefeller: The Incredible Story of the Ambitious Rivals Who Toppled an Empire

Peter B. Doran. Viking, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-525-42739-1
Plucky upstarts challenge John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil monopoly in this lively history of the early petroleum industry from Doran, creator of the History of Oil podcasts. He examines the period from 1889 to 1911 when the secretive, penny-pinching Rockefeller controlled 80% of the world’s oil but faced threats from foreign competition and domestic antitrust initiatives. Doran focuses on two innovative rivals: Britain’s Shell Oil, founded by status-hungry merchant Marcus Samuel, whose advanced tankers shipped cheap kerosene from Russian refineries to Asia; and Royal Dutch Oil, which used pioneering geology to find rich oil fields in Indonesia. These companies and their colorful founders braved considerable risks to drill and sell oil—and to survive the price wars and buyout stratagems that Standard launched to crush them. Doran’s vigorous narrative conveys the drama of the oil industry in its heroic days, featuring grueling stretches of dry wells followed by marathon gushers; lurid, greedy oil boomtowns; and the wars, revolutions, and production gluts that made the business a roller-coaster. He’s also good at untangling the underlying dynamics of finance, marketing, technology, and transportation. The result is an entertaining portrait of the oil industry’s past and the business forces that still shape its present. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 05/24/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-14-313000-0
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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