Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Ervand Abrahamian

Committee Members

Simon Davis

Beth Baron

Megan Vaughan

Mandana Limbert

Subject Categories

History | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Islamic World and Near East History


Iran, Middle East, Medicine, Health, Imperialism, Oil


“Petroleum, Health, and Power: The Anglo-Persian Oil Company and the Colonial Dimensions of Company Medicine in Iran, 1902-1931” investigates the medical and public health work of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC, later Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), and today BP P.L.C., or British Petroleum) in southwest Iran in the period prior to the Iranian central government’s assumption of control over public health in the region. To ensure that its operations functioned without disruption, the British-owned oil company constructed an extensive and integrated medical infrastructure and carried out substantial public health programs. Based on archival material from the BP Archive and the National Library and Archives of Iran, this dissertation contends that APOC’s medical and public health work was foundational to its successful establishment and the consolidation of its preeminent position in Iran. It demonstrates that in its pursuit of public health aims, APOC implemented regimes of surveillance, discipline, and coercion that extended beyond the spaces of work. The oil company engaged in governance of populations through public health, functioning as a state in southwest Iran during a period in which the administrative reach of the Iranian central government was effectively absent from the oil-bearing territories. This story sheds new light on the extent of APOC’s influence in Iran by deepening understanding of the sociocultural dimensions of the Company’s power. More broadly, by considering the oil company’s presence in Iran through the prism of health, this study invites rethinking of the conceptual distinctions between modern states and companies and calls for further scholarly investigation of companies as key actors in the global proliferation of modern medicine and public health.

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