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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
This book inspired a recent cruise where we transited the Panama Canal. It is awesome and made all the more meaningful by the excellent research and writing of Dr. McCullough. Read morePublished 42 minutes ago by Patricia K. Gibson
One of the best books I have read. I would have loved to have had diagrams to accompany the wonderful descriptions of the various mechanical operations. Read morePublished 17 hours ago by Yvonne Lysaker
An incredibly detailed account, at times riveting. More detail than the average person wants or needs, but at the conclusion, you know you've learned all there is know about this... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Lawrence Lucas
Fascinating look at the politics, funding, personalities, equipment, devastation from disease (and discovery of the cause), and historical context of the building of the Panama... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Ren Reader
Excellent reading. This fascinating book on the history of the Panama Canal kept me reading. I have read other books by David mcCullough and I knew he would give this topic... Read morePublished 2 days ago by av8r
This represents an incredible amount of research. I doubt that it will ever be surpassed. I really enjoyed reading it.Published 2 days ago by Aaron B. Krosnick
This is a well written comprehensive account of the building of the canal. I now have the urge to take a trip through the canal to see the results.Published 3 days ago by Robert Larkin