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All that changed, writes David McCullough in his magisterial history of the Canal, in 1848, when prospectors struck gold in California. A wave of fortune seekers descended on Panama from Europe and the eastern United States, seeking quick passage on California-bound ships in the Pacific, and the Panama Railroad, built to serve that traffic, was soon the highest-priced stock listed on the New York Exchange. To build a 51-mile-long ship canal to replace that railroad seemed an easy matter to some investors. But, as McCullough notes, the construction project came to involve the efforts of thousands of workers from many nations over four decades; eventually those workers, laboring in oppressive heat in a vast malarial swamp, removed enough soil and rock to build a pyramid a mile high. In the early years, they toiled under the direction of French entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lesseps, who went bankrupt while pursuing his dream of extending France's empire in the Americas. The United States then entered the picture, with President Theodore Roosevelt orchestrating the purchase of the canal--but not before helping foment a revolution that removed Panama from Colombian rule and placed it squarely in the American camp.
The story of the Panama Canal is complex, full of heroes, villains, and victims. McCullough's long, richly detailed, and eminently literate book pays homage to an immense undertaking. --Gregory McNamee
Very interesting story - especially with the possibility of a Nicaraguan canal to be built soon. Got a bit tedious though.Published 4 days ago by From Minnesota
An excellent and thorough discussion of this massive project A must read before going through the canalPublished 5 days ago by Vivian L. Amundson
I read and loved this book in preparation for a trip to the Canal, but it would have been great if I never saw the big cut. Read morePublished 5 days ago by James M Sumner
One of the most awesome historical pieces. I was so captivated by the events and could not believe it actually came to fruition. A truly amazing feat.Published 6 days ago by Gloria S Willis
David McCullough never disappoints. This, The Wright Brothers and The Great Bridge are fantastic historical reads. Very well researched, written.Published 8 days ago by LDWesty