The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power

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The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
File:The Prize.jpg
Author Daniel Yergin
Country United States
Language English
Subject History
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Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
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Pages Lua error in Module:Wikidata at line 245: invalid escape sequence near '"^'.
ISBN 0-671-50248-4 (hardcover)
ISBN 0-671-79932-0 (paperback)
OCLC 22381448
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The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is Daniel Yergin's history of the global petroleum industry from the 1850s through 1990. The Prize became a bestseller, helped by its release date in October 1990, two months after the invasion of Kuwait ordered by Saddam Hussein and three months before the U.S.-led coalition began the Gulf War to oust Iraqi troops from that country.[1] It eventually went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.[2]

The Prize has been called the "definitive" history of the oil industry, even a "bible".[3]

Popular success

In 1992 The Prize won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction;[2] it 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 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'."[4]


Ten years in the making,[5] 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,[5] Global Energy Analyst for NBC and CNBC, member of the board of the United States Energy Association and of the U.S.-Russia 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.[6]


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 said to have been seen by 20 million people in the United States.

The book is also available as an abridged audiobook, read by Bob Jamieson with a run time of 2 hours and 53 minutes.

In 2011 Yergin's The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World was published by Penguin Press. The Quest is considered the sequel to The Prize.

Origin of the Title

The name of the book is taken from a quote made by Winston Churchill in 1912, before he became Prime Minister and was Lord of the Admiralty. He was arguing for the conversion of British warships from coal to fuel oil, but noted the geopolitical ramifications of tying Britain's fortunes to oil.

Here's the quote from Churchill:

"To build any large additional number of oil-burning ships meant basing our naval supremacy on oil. But oil was not found in appreciable quantities in our islands. If we required it we must carry it by sea in peace or war from distant countries. We had, on the other hand, the finest supply of the best steam coal in the world, safe in our mines under our own land. To commit the Navy irrevocably to oil was indeed to 'take arms against a sea of troubles.'" Yet, if the difficulties and risk could be surmounted, "we should be able to raise the whole power and efficiency of the Navy to a definitely higher level; better ships, better crews, higher economies, more intense forms of war power"—in a word, "mastery itself was the prize of the venture." [Emphasis added]


  1. Beyond the Ivory Tower
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Pulitzer Prize Winners: General Non-Fiction" (web). Retrieved 2008-02-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. (Matthew Yeomans, Oil: Anatomy of an Industry [New York & London: New Press, 2004], ISBN 1-56584-885-3, p. 220)
  4. Book Reviews
  5. 5.0 5.1 Booknotes interview with Yergin on The Prize, January 27, 1991
  6. The Prize, bibliography.

External links