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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
What a great piece of work this book is and what an amazing feat of engineering and construction management the canal was back at the turn of the centuries. Read morePublished 3 hours ago by Theresa Zittritsch
This was a great read with a lot of interesting facts that were never presented before. Kept me very captivated and I wanted to read more and more. Very easy to follow. Read morePublished 13 hours ago by Barry
Wonderfully informative and full of details of US History either long forgotten or never known. Now I want to transit the canal!Published 17 hours ago by Jeep61
I enjoyed this read because of the historical and entertaining way the author presented this documentation. Very informative and revealed history I was not aware of.Published 18 hours ago by Alice
This is a very good history of the Panama Canal. It should have been broken into three sections.
2. Engineering and Design
3. Read more
Truly fascinating but a little bogged down in detail!
Having lived in Panama the past two years I found the history of the canal concept as Mr McCullough presents it enlightening and entertaining as well. Read morePublished 19 hours ago by VAIL8150
Lots of interesting info on the building of one of man`s greatest project. No way it could be built now, very high costs in human lives, ecological and money. Read morePublished 19 hours ago by Ernesto de la Guardia