Total’s Industrial History and the People Who Made It

Today, Total presented Total, a Pioneer Spirit, a new book and documentary that take a look back at the Group’s history. Together, they follow a human and industrial adventure from the founding of Compagnie Française des Pétroles in 1924 up through the mergers with Petrofina and then Elf in 1999-2000, which made Total the world’s fourth largest energy major.

Knowing Where We’re Going, But Also Where We’ve Come From

The idea to write a corporate history emerged four years ago, when Total launched a comprehensive project to define its 20-year ambition. An in-depth look at the Group’s history and its values played an important role in uniting everyone at Total around the project. Total has one ambition: to become the responsible energy major. Total knows where it’s going, and now stakeholders know where it came from. 

Our identity and corporate culture are rooted in our history, source of the values that unite the men and women of Total,” said Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Total. “I am proud and delighted to share the end-product of this giant project with everyone who is interested in the world of energy. Total, a Pioneer Spirit tells the story of the people who made Total and who threw themselves into meeting the challenges of the past and preparing those of the future.”

Re-telling Total’s history involves understanding the history of energy, geopolitics and changing lifestyles. Tristan Gaston-Breton, a historian who specializes in the history of French businesses, fleshes out this human and industrial saga with background documents and archival images that describe the international, social and economic environment of the time. 

The documentary comprises six episodes lasting five to ten minutes each. The narration by former employees and the current generation at Total takes viewers through the success stories, crises and comebacks that have shaped the Group’s history. 


The book is now available in Actes Sud affiliated bookshops. The documentary will be broadcast starting on December 5 on