Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Anthony Harkins (Director), Dr. Roger Murphy, Dr. Eric Reed

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts in History


During the 2008 spike in oil prices, oil companies and government officials were brought under close scrutiny as many Americans began to question why prices were able to rise so quickly. Americans had become accustomed to living in an economy where cheap oil was the norm, and demanded answers when that situation changed. What most of them did not know is that they were repeating history and mimicking the response to the 1973 oil embargo. Just as in 2008, the United States faced a crisis in 1973 with which it was unprepared to effectively cope. This thesis analyzes the reasons for and consequences of this lack of preparation in 1973 drawing on the writings of major policy makers and leaders of the time, most notably Henry Kissinger, Anwar el-Sadat, and Richard Nixon, Senate hearings testimony, recently declassified government documents detailing plans for U.S. invasion, and contemporary newspapers which recorded public perception. I argue that decades of living with cheaply priced oil, an over reliance on multinational corporations and a lack of understanding of Middle Eastern resentment toward these oil companies, combined with a fundamental misunderstanding of how oil and politics could be linked brought the United States to the ultimate near-decision of invading the Middle East.

The 1973 oil embargo brought the United States face-to-face with the consequences of reliance on foreign oil and with the hardships that resulted from it. The United States had relied on oil companies to manage their interests in the Middle East for decades but in 1973 the situation changed forever. I close by considering the ongoing deep ties between the United States and the Middle East that are present still. The same problems that existed in 1973 exist today, and until those are corrected the United States and its economy will be deeply tied to the Middle East and to events in the region.


History | International Business | Islamic World and Near East History | Oil, Gas, and Energy | United States History