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The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 Paperback – October 15, 1978


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The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 + The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge + Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 698 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (October 15, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671244094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671244095
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (939 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On December 31, 1999, after nearly a century of rule, the United States officially ceded ownership of the Panama Canal to the nation of Panama. That nation did not exist when, in the mid-19th century, Europeans first began to explore the possibilities of creating a link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the narrow but mountainous isthmus; Panama was then a remote and overlooked part of Colombia.

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

Review

The Washington Star David McCullough's history of this extraordinary construction job between the Atlantic and Pacific is everything history ought to be. It is dramatic, accurate...and altogether gripping.

The Washington Post Book World Solid, entertainingly written and fair-minded...McCullough unravels the complicated and sometimes deliberately obscured story that lies behind the Panama Canal.

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt The New York Times A chunk of history full of giant-sized characters and rich in political skullduggery.

The New York Daily News In the hands of McCullough, the digging of the great ditch becomes a kind of peacetime epic...The book will absorb you...You won't want to put it down once you've started reading it.

Newsweek McCullough is a storyteller with the capacity to steer readers through political, financial, and engineering intricacies without fatigue or muddle. This is grand-scale, expert work.

More About the Author

David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback; His other widely praised books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the National Humanities Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Customer Reviews

Very well written and easy to read.
Jan Owens
David McCullough makes the epic story of the building of the Panama Canal come to life in a way that few authors could.
Brian D. Rubendall
Like everything David McCullough writes it's a great book.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

162 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on May 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
David McCullough makes the epic story of the building of the Panama Canal come to life in a way that few authors could. Throughout the long history of tranportation across the Central American isthmus (first railroad, then canal) McCollough focusses on fascinating characters like the brilliant but enigmatic Frechman Ferdinand de Lesseps, who built the Suez Canal but whose career crashed and burned in Panama. McCullough's skill as a storyteller simply cannot be understated. The book will leave you with a true appreciation of just how Herculean an undertaking the canal was. This book is simply one of the best works of history to appear in the last quarter century.
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122 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on July 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
David McCollough is a heck of a writer -- a fact I already knew from reading his wonderful biography Truman. His skill does justice to an epic story of recent times: the building of the Panama Canal.
This big book is necessary to tell a big tale. The effort to build the Path Between the Seas across the isthmus of Panama lasted from the 1870's through 1914. In a nutshell, first the French tried and failed to build a sea level crossing at Panama. This was in pursuit of a vision held by many national leaders in order to cut thousands of miles from the journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. The Americans picked up where the French left off, and after a decade succeeded in creating a crossing using locks and a man-made lake.
What McCollough does so well is flesh out the above nutshell. It is a tale that would not be believed if written as fiction. The level of incompetence, misfeasance and malfeasance, wondrously peculiar personalities, engineering failures and brilliance, vision and size astound the reader and underscore how that age relied more upon enthusiasm, idealism and optimism in the pursuit of grand efforts than does our careful and measured era. The French followed the builder of the Suez Canal into the jungles of Panama. Tens of thousands of French families invested their life savings in the stock of a company that had no plans for the actual canal, very little good data of conditions on the isthmus, no idea of the amount of earth required to be removed, and no budget that would pay for the grand adventure.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Mike Powers on February 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Path Between the Seas" is narrative history at its best - the story of perhaps the greatest engineering feat of modern times. Writing in the clear and lucid style for which he is noted, historian David McCullough traces the creation of the Panama Canal from its earliest inception by the French in 1870, to its completion 44 years later by the United States.
McCullough skillfully weaves personalities and events together to create a powerful narrative replete with political intrigue, financial scandal, and triumph over tremendous adversity. The author first acquaints the reader with the leaders of the French attempt to build the canal - Ferdinand de Lesseps and his son, Charles, and Phillippe Bunau-Varilla, among others - and tells of the ultimate failure of their venture, and their disgrace due to financial scandal. McCullough then chronicles the ultimately successful American attempt to build the canal. Here is seen the political intrigue (the U.S. backed Panamanian revolution against Colombia, with the complicity of President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of State John Hay, and Bunau-Varilla); the successful war against yellow fever and malaria, led by American doctor William Gorgas; and the organizational and engineering genius of two American Chief Engineers - John Stevens and Colonel George Goethals - which led to the completion of the canal in 1914.
"The Path Between the Seas" is more than just the story of how the Panama Canal was built; it is a well researched, historically accurate, and at the same time lively and highly entertaining account of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Highly recommended!
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Douglas on March 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
I hold a personal interest in the Canal as I have just visited it and am a direct descendant of Col. David Gaillard one of the American engineers of the Canal, and all everyone in Panama told me was to read Mr. McCullough's account of its creation. As a history major in school, I read many great and many bland histories; this book ranks in as one of the most captivating books I have read, fiction or non-fiction. Even if one does not have any previous interest in the Canal, after the first pages you will become hooked. McCullough writes with such elegant prose and interesting humor, that the story unfolds like a Victorian novel. From the incredible cast of characters (from Ferdinand de Lessups to Teddy Roosevelt), the intrigue, the conspiracies, the romance, the quest for one of Man's greatest achievements explodes into an incredible book that will keep the reader thinking about the Canal for years to come...and will compel the same reader to venture to this tropical country and view the incredible "8th Wonder of the World" himself.
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