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BP originated in 1908 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company—a British corporation whose name was changed to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company two decades later. With exclusive rights to extract, refine, export, and sell Iran's rich oil resources, the company reaped enormous profits. Meanwhile, it shared only a tiny fraction of the proceeds with the Iranian government. Similarly, although the company's British personnel lived in great luxury, its Iranian laborers endured lives of squalor and privation.
In 1947, as Iranian resentment grew at the giant oil company's practices, the Iranian parliament called upon the Shah, Iran's feudal potentate, to renegotiate the agreement with Anglo-Iranian.