BP Archive

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1566 BP
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English, Arabic, Persian, German, and French.
  • Physical Description
      2700 linear metres

Scope and Content

The Archive of the Main Board of BP p.l.c., its group business centre, business streams and UK incorporated subsidiaries. Core business records are available including documents of incorporation; General and Board minutes; accounts, schedules and shareholder records. The Archive also includes Company magazines; annual reports and accounts; photographs; films; public relations materials and D'Arcy family albums. More detail can be found in the large collection of working files which constitutes half the Archive's holdings. In addition there is a small number of private accessions deposited by former employees.

The Archive covers local, national and international history, and subjects include every aspect of life touched by the oil industry: political, cultural and social affairs; international disputes and warfare; changing topographies; industrial relations; economics and business issues; transport, particularly road, rail and ocean tankers; technological developments; and advertising and livery. Given that the Company was the first to develop the oil resources of the Middle East, the Archive is a particularly important source for Middle Eastern history in the 20th century, and the radical changes that the oil industry brought to every aspect of life in the countries of the Middle East. It is also an important source for the history of the United Kingdom, the Americas, and Australasia, and contains some information on most other areas of the world.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1901 William Knox D'Arcy obtained a concession to explore for oil in Iran. From 1905 this work was financed by The Burmah Oil Company Ltd and oil was discovered in 1908. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company Ltd was incorporated on 14 April 1909 and took over ownership of the concession, but was still a subsidiary of Burmah. This changed in 1914 following the British Government's decision to convert its Navy to fuel oil, as it lead to a large investment in the Company by the Government giving it a 66 per cent interest. The Government remained a major shareholder in the Company until it decided to sell most of its shares on the stock exchange in 1987.

In 1923 the Company discovered oil in Iraq, within the "Transferred Territories" which fell within the D'Arcy Concession. In 1914 it had become a shareholder in the Turkish Petroleum Company Ltd, later renamed the Iraq Petroleum Company Ltd, which struck oil in Iraq in 1927. In 1934 the Kuwait Oil Company Ltd was incorporated as a jointly-owned venture with Gulf Oil Corporation of Pennsylvania, which discovered oil in Kuwait in 1938. In 1932 the Company formed a joint UK marketing company with Shell called Shell-Mex and B.P. Ltd.

The Company was renamed the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Ltd in 1935. In 1951 the Iranian Oil industry was nationalised and the Company was expelled from Iran. It changed its name in 1954 to The British Petroleum Company Ltd. A consortium called The Iranian Oil Participants Ltd was then formed, in which the Company had the largest interest. The purpose of the Consortium was to work with the National Iranian Oil Company (formed in 1951) to develop the country's oil and gas interests. This lasted until the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

During the 1960s and 70s the Company pioneered oil and gas exploration and production in the North Sea and Alaska. This was followed in the 1970s and 80s by a programme of diversification which included the creation of BP Minerals, BP Coal, and BP Nutrition. However, most of these assets were sold between 1987 and 1994 in order to finance the purchases of The Standard Oil Company in May 1987 and Britoil in March 1988. The Company then underwent a process of concentration on the "core businesses" of exploration, marketing and refining, and petrochemicals. The one significant survivor from the years of diversification is BP Solar which continued to grow during the 1990s and is now one of the world's largest solar energy companies.

In 1982 the Company changed its name to The British Petroleum Co p.l.c. On 31 December 1998, the Company merged with the US oil company, Amoco Corporation, on a 60/40 basis and was renamed BP Amoco p.l.c. Two further takeovers occurred in 2000 - Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and Burmah Castrol p.l.c. On 1 May 2001 the Company was renamed BP p.l.c.

Reference: BP Archive


The Archive is arranged to reflect the structure of the company

Access Information

The BP Archive is open to 1954. Company magazines, annual reports and accounts, photographs and public relations material are all open up to the present day. An appointment is required to view the papers, please contact staff for more information.

Acquisition Information

The Archive was created in-house by the 1920s.

Other Finding Aids

A database to file level is available for public use in the searchroom.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying of material is permitted at the discretion of BP Archive.


Further deposits are expected.

Related Material

The repository holds a significant collection of books relating to the oil industry.

The repository also holds the papers of three jointly owned subsidiary companies: Kuwait Oil Company Archive, the Iraq Petroleum Company Archive, and the Shell-Mex and BP Limited Archive; and the papers of the wholly owned subsidiary the Burmah Oil Company Archive.


BP Company histories:

Reference: Ferrier, R. W., The Developing Years, 1901-1932 (Cambridge 1982).

Reference: Bamberg, J., The Anglo-Iranian Years, 1928-1954 (Cambridge, 1994).

Reference: Bamberg, J., British Petroleum and Global Oil, 1950-1975 (Cambridge, 2000).

Personal Names