At his death in 1955 the Anglo-Armenian oil magnate, art collector and philanthropist Calouste Gulbenkian was the world's richest man. The spider at the centre of an emerging international oil industry, Gulbenkian held empires and multinationals to ransom for more than fifty years.
Book Talk: Mr. Five Percent, The Many Lives of Calouste Gulbenkian
with Dr. Jonathan Conlin, University of Southampton, in conversation with Zeynep Celik
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Oil men from California to the Caucasus sought him out for his skill in raising capital. Oil majors like Shell recognized his gift for negotiation, which helped form cosy cartels that carved up world markets. From the Sultan and Young Turks on the eve of World War One to the Shah and Ibn Saud, Gulbenkian served as middleman to generations of oil men and Middle East leaders.
How did a shy and reclusive Armenian come to exert such power, bridging divides of east and west which seem insurmountable today?
Born in New York, historian Dr. Jonathan Conlin studied at Oxford, the Courtauld Institute and Cambridge before being appointed Senior Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Southampton in 2006. His books include The Nation's Mantelpiece: a history of the National Gallery, a comparative history of Paris and London (Tales of Two Cities) and a biography of Adam Smith.
Zeynep Çelik is distinguished professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Her publications include The Remaking of Istanbul (1986), Displaying the Orient (1992), Streets (1993—co-editor), Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations (1997), Empire, Architecture, and the City (2008, Walls of Algiers (2009—co-editor), Scramble for the Past (2011, co-editor), Camera Ottomana (2014, co-editor), and About Antiquities (2016). She co-curated several exhibitions and has been the recipient of prestigious fellowships and awards, including John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2004), American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship (1992, 2004, and 2011), National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (2012), Vehbi Koç Foundation Award (2013), the Sarton Medal from Ghent University (2014), and Levi Della Vida Award (UCLA, 2019).