Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America

Basic. Jun. 2019. 688p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465060863. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781541673946. REL
In this original, deeply researched, and highly readable narrative, Dochuk (history, Univ. of Notre Dame; From Bible Belt to Sunbelt) looks at the global rise of post–Civil War America through the intertwined lenses of crude oil and religion. The author’s introduction describes this project as “the religious biography of a natural resource with outsized—and seemingly otherworldly—importance,” a work unique for the way in which its stories of oil and religion are shown as being completely inseparable. Spanning Pennsylvania and West Texas to Alberta, Canada, and the Middle East, and covering influential families such as the Rockefellers, Pews, and Kochs, Dochuck does a masterly job of tracing the intersecting role of religion and petroleum as the fundamental root of modern American exceptionalism. One key image throughout is the tension between major oil’s civil religion and independent oil’s “wildcat Christianity” and the role each stream played in the formation of the contemporary political landscape.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in American history, especially those wishing to understand better the influence of capitalism, religion, and petroleum in the creation of America’s 20th-century ascendency and many 21st-century political dynamics.
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