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A History of Royal Dutch Shell

5 juli 2007

On 5 July 2007, exactly 100 years after the merger which created Royal Dutch Shell, IISH research fellow Jan Luiten van Zanden presented a study into the history of Royal Dutch Shell at Shell headquarters.

Van Zanden called the international amalgamation between the two 1907 partners, which only fully merged in 2005 the longest merger ever. He showed how Royal Dutch Shell was among the handful of oil companies that acquired a significant part of the global markets in the First decades of the Twentieth Century. In this phase of the history of the company Henri Deterding led a strong team of managers. Shell and Standard Oil/Exxon became the world's two largest oil companies.
In the middle decades of the twentieth century Shell managed to consolidate this position. Oil field nationalizations in the 1970s could be absorbed because high oil prices allowed the company to develop alternatives. After 1986 low oil prices, coupled with globalization and privatizations, forced the firm to reorganize its business. The reserves crises, which eventually led to the full merger into one firm, happened while the book was being researched and could be included. This very recent history was the sole exception to the historians being granted unlimited access to Shell's archives.
The study, in four volumes that together weigh more than 10 kilogrammes, was written by a team of four historians from Utrecht University's Research Institute for History and Culture, which comprised - apart from Jan Luiten van Zanden - Joost Jonker, Stephen Howarth and Keetie Sluyterman.

Jan Luiten van Zanden, Joost Jonker, Stephen Howarth and Keetie Sluyterman, A History of Royal Dutch Shell
Amsterdam/New York : Boom/Oxford University Press, 2007; ISBN 978-0-19-929877-8 ; 1742 pp.