Since its discovery in 1908, the oil industry in Iran has been formed within the network of several intertwined formative relations that have undergone major changes over the course of the twentieth century. Labour relations in Iran, especially in this key industrial sector, have been crafted by a series of changing relations between the national state and a major colonial entity (Anglo-Persian Oil Company 1908-1935, Anglo-Iranian Oil Company 1935-1954), between the national state, National Iranian Oil Company, and a consortium of multinationals (1954-79), between the national state and the local and national labour force employed in the industry, and between the oil company and its employees. These relations have, therefore, affected both labour formation and labour relations in substantially diverse ways and levels, at different historical junctures. Evidently, workers' everyday life has immensely influenced their aspirations and activities, both collectively and individually.
The centurial social history of labour in the Iranian oil industry (1908-2008) has been the theme of a grand research project currently proceeding at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. While the previous studies on the Persian/Iranian oil industry were chiefly crafted along the state or the oil company histories, the main objective of this project is to study the history of the Iranian oil industry from below. In doing so, the study will focus on the main aspects of labour composition (ethnicity, gender, and age), labour formation (recruitment, skills, training and education), labour relations (waging and labour discipline), labour migration, mobility and integration and the oil workers’ living conditions inside and outside of the company towns (including housing, nutrition, hygiene, health and leisure). Having assessed the material circumstances of daily existence of the oil workers at work, at home and at community, this project investigate the interaction between oil workers, the oil company and the state during hundred years following the oil discovery.