In a vast (512-page), important, and timely work, Yergin (Shattered Peace, 1977; coeditor, Global Insecurity, 1982) eloquently details the rise and development of our hydrocarbon-based society. Yergin tells three distinct tales here: the evolution of the oil industry from its humble origins in the oil country of Pennsylvania to the international rivalries of the great Standard Oil trust and its successor companies; the pursuit of oil by world powers as great themes in both world wars, the Suez crisis, and postwar politics, and the use of oil by nation-states to achieve world prominence; and the growth of the world ""hydrocarbon culture,"" as oil has become a central component in the industrial world, with the stigmatization of oil as a primary culprit in the spoliation of the environment. Yergin's account of the early years of the oil industry is a tale of primitive capitalism run amok. However, the significance of oil became apparent after WW I--Yergin explains the German defeat largely as the Allies' success in denying them the Rumanian oil fields. The right to exploit oil resources became an engine of policy after WW I, and America's predominance in oil a prime factor in winning WW II. In the postwar period, industrial society's dependence upon oil became acute, and America's exploitation of the oil resources of poorer countries a continual irritant in its relations with those nations. Yergin shows the industrial West paralyzed by oil shortages during the Seventies; as the oil crisis faded and prices lowered, the West became complacent. The book concludes with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, underscoring the continued cultural and geopolitical importance of oil. An informative and thoughtful work that puts the cultural, political, and military history of the 20th century--the ""century of oil""--in a new, bright light.