An Elephant in the Garden: The Allies, Spain, and Oil in World War II

Leonard Caruana, Hugh Rockoff

NBER Working Paper No. 12228
Issued in May 2006
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

During World War II the Allies controlled Spain's oil supply in order to limit Spain's support for the Axis. This experiment with sanctions is unusually informative because a wide range of policies was tried over a long period. Three episodes are of special interest: (1) a total embargo on oil for Spain in 1940 that was surprisingly successful in dissuading Spain from joining the Axis; (2) a period of reduced supplies in 1941-42 that we call "the Squeeze" that was only partially successful; and (3) a second total embargo in 1944 that was a disappointment for the Allies, given the course of the war, that produced a rift between Churchill and Roosevelt. Our analysis is based on new monthly estimates of Spain's imports of gasoline and other petroleum products, which we describe in the text and report in the appendix. These estimates allow us to draw a clearer picture of the oil sanctions than has been possible in the past.

download in pdf format
   (190 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the October 2006 NBER Digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12228

Published: Caruana, Leonard & Rockoff, Hugh, 2007. "An elephant in the garden: The Allies, Spain, and oil in World War II," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 159-187, August. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Caruana and Rockoff h0132 A Wolfram in Sheep's Clothing: U.S. Economic Warfare in Spain, 1940-1944
Gordon w14560 Did Economics Cause World War II?
Occhino, Oosterlinck, and White w12137 How Occupied France Financed Its Own Exploitation in World War II
Rockoff w13418 Keep on Scrapping: The Salvage Drives of World War II
Strahan w13798 Liquidity Production in 21st Century Banking
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us