Anointed with Oil is a groundbreaking new history of the United States that places the relationship between religious faith and oil together at the center of America’s rise to global power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As prize-winning historian Darren Dochuk reveals, from the earliest discovery of oil in America during the Civil War, Americans saw oil as the nation’s special blessing and its peculiar burden, the source of its prophetic mission in the world. Over the century that followed and down to the present day, the oil industry’s leaders and its ordinary workers together fundamentally transformed American religion, business, and politics–boosting America’s ascent as the preeminent global power, giving shape to modern evangelical Christianity, fueling the rise of the Republican Right, and setting the terms for today’s political and environmental uncertainties.
Through extensive research in corporate, political, and community archives in the US and around the world, Dochuk brings to life a vast cast of characters: oil hunters, executives, powerbrokers, politicians, muckrakers, preachers, and ordinary oil patch residents. He profiles the generations of geologists and wildcat drillers who understood petroleum as a blessing from God, and the oil executives who developed an ideology of high-risk, high-reward entrepreneurialism by fusing notions of earthly dominion with trust in the supernatural. He examines how many oil workers and their families weathered the boom-bust economies of extraction zones like the Southwest by drawing closer to Christ. And he recounts how, after making their fortunes in “big oil,” families such as the Rockefellers constructed enormous philanthropies and sought to uplift America and the world according to Judeo-Christian values and a vision of well-ordered markets–even as other independent tycoons who embraced a more fervent “wildcat religion” and enthusiasm for laissez-faire capitalism eventually dethroned these centrists and helped to usher conservatives like Ronald Reagan and George Bush to victory.
Ranging from the Civil War to the present, from West Texas to Saudi Arabia to the Alberta Tar Sands, and from oil patch boomtowns to the White House, Anointed with Oil a sweeping, magisterial book that transforms how we understand modern America.