Abstract: The Emergence of the French Oil Industry between the Two Wars

Mohamed Sassi


The late emergence of a French oil industry, precisely between the two wars, at first appears to be an economic miracle. It was born from a determination to set up an independent energy policy. France is a country deprived of natural resources and, on the eve of the First World War, its vital need for energy pushed it to give more importance to oil, which explains private initiatives such as the case of Desmarais Frères. In 1914, the French supply of oil was totally dependant on the Majors, particularly on the American company Standard Oil. Although from 1917 Shell was privileged, the problem of the oil industry was not yet resolved. In 1919, the French objective was to recover a part of the interests of the Turkish Petroleum Company (T.P.C.) in the Near East. France recovered the share of the Deutsche Bank and thus created the Compagnie Française des Pétroles (C.F.P.). Born in 1924, the company was to be associated with any preexisting French oil company in order to assure an indisputable majority of national capital. The second important step was the setting-up of the law of 1928 that took care of special export authorizations of the crude and refined oils. The final step was the creation of the refining company (C.F.R.). The state supported the development of the C.F.P. by some institutional arrangements and succeeded in integrating it upstream, by adding the capital of the largest distribution companies and by encouraging the development of their distribution activity. The objective of this study is to try to identify the mechanisms of this successful integration with the international oil markets.

BEH On-Line Paper