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The Banana Men: American Mercenaries and Entrepreneurs in Central America, 1880-1930 Hardcover – January, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Although both historians have produced previous books on US-Central American relations, they have approached the subject from distinct perspectives and utilized different methodologies. In this study, they attempt to create a richer analysis by combining their respective strengths to examine a neglected topic" -- CJLACS



"A valuable addition to the bookshelf of scholars, tourists, or volunteers who wish to understand the economic and political forces and North and Central American actors that created the regions banana republics." -- Historical Geographer



"Recounts incredible stories within the framework of social imperialism and dependency theory." -- Latin American Research Review



"The heart of the book is an engaging and fascinating narrative of the entrepreneurs and mercenaries who 'ravished' Central America between 1880 and 1930. Langley and Schoonover captured the spirit of the age and the personalities of those who walked across it by letting their characters speak for themselves and including descriptive passages in their traditional narrative." -- The Americas



"An important addition to the literature of the United States' intervention in Latin America during the period after 1880." -- Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Pr of Kentucky; First Edition edition (January 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813118913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813118918
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #733,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
I am one of the co-authors, but I would advise readers who are attracted by the adventurous title to skip Chapter One and begin with Chapter Two and so on to the end of the book and then return and read Chapter One. If the reader is interested in analysis and interpretation, he/she can begin with Chapter One.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
A wonderful book about a fascinating time in history. Lee Christmas, Sam Zemurray and all the other characters from the era are rescued from undeserved obscurity. Information not found elsewhere made this a worthwhile read. Having lived in La Ceiba, Honduras and Guatemala, this book brought back the smells and taste of tropical America. For anybody interested in the virtually unknown escapades of soldiers of fortune and crazy capitalists, this is the book for you. If anyone knows of similar books that can be purchased, please e-mail me. I have some, but the early publication dates and lack of market for republications makes it difficult to find classics by Beals, Batson and Cunningham among others.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on November 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
One of the least appreciated fields of American foreign policy is the role American mercenaries, entrepeneurs and government officials played in the Central American isthmus prior to WWII. The highlight of this time and place is the Panama Canal of course; but there is an entire history separate from Panama that occurred just to the north in the countries of Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatamela and El Salvador. This book focuses on the history of these countries in the time frame of 1880 - 1930. Why this time? The answer is that during this time, this area moved out of the influence of Europe and Europeans, and passed under the influence of the USA. It is during this time that the phrase "Banana Republic" becomes common as the events in these countries were driven by the banana industry or those involved in it.

The book gives equal attention to both local actors such as Bonilla, Manuel, and Castro (not Fidel), and those from the USA such as Lee Christmas, Guy Molony, and of course higher ups in the White House such as Taft, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The emphasis is on events in the isthmus itself, and many pages detail the battles and machinations of local officials.

The story painted in this book follows the general outline. First, whites discover the feasibility of banana production en masse within Central America. Second, whites from Europe and America move in to make money of the banana business. In doing so, they run into locals and the rivalries that dominate local politics, and are inexplicably drawn in. Washington occasionaly tries to force peace with ironclad warships of the coastal cities and battalions of marines and bluejackets. But this only works as long as the soldiers and ships are present, which is some of the time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found this to be an excellent rendition of some rather brutal and violent events. The cast of characters could fill a dozen novels, but they were all real people. The corruption, the revolutions, the mercenaries, the battles the the battles are all detailed in a readable style.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lehigh History Student VINE VOICE on March 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book serves as a guide for the men who fought in Central America from the 1880's through the great depression. It recounts their exploits but really does not get into their motives. Simply calling them soldiers of fortune does not make sense when their exploits are explored in detail. I think this book has value as a starting guide except for the fact that it requires a lot of knowledge on the history to begin with. The author's attempts at trying to determine which groups were responsible for which raids leave a large scholarly gap to be filled. This books value is limited and really should only be used as a quick review of what happened.
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