This concise, accessible introduction to the history of oil tells the story of how petroleum shaped human life since it was first discovered leaking inconspicuously from the soil. Leading environmental history specialist Brian C. Black connects the subsequent exploitation of petroleum to patterns in world history while tracing the intricate links between energy and people after 1850. Today, we see the disastrous results of environmental degradation, political instability, and world economic disparity in the waning years of a petroleum-powered civilization-lessons rooted in the finite nature of oil. This "crude reality" becomes tragic when we measure our overwhelming reliance on this geological ooze. Black brings to this book a global perspective and a wide-ranging technical knowledge presented specifically for general readers, making its scope much broader than any of the other surveys. Written by a major scholar on the history of petroleum, it is an essential contribution to environmental history and the rapidly emerging field of energy history. The paperback edition features an updated epilogue and a bibliography.