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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 » User review

A man, a plan, a canal . . .

  • Oct 10, 2008
  • by
The epitome of what a general narrative history should be-informative, fun, inspiring.

McCullough begins by tracing the idea of an isthmian canal in history, continues with the two abortive French efforts to complete the canal, and finally covers the completion of the canal in its political and technical aspects under the leadership of the United States.

The technical aspects are fascinating for their details and bridging of a fifty year period of incredible engineering progress, the political aspects are interesting for their far-reaching impact (Central American hatred of the United States still lingers from the blatant grab of Panama from Columbia), but mostly the human story of the men, women, and larger-than-life lesser gods (de Lesseps, Buneau-Varilla, Roosevelt, Goethals) who made it happen is what remains most classic in this history..

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review by . September 10, 2008
This Pulitzer-prize winning book tells of the creation of the Panama Canal, and in doing so, gives a great introduction to the American century. The book is written in third person, and follows the who, what, when, where and how of this great undertaking. The who includes engineers, politicians, business leaders, and common laborers who manned the machines that dug the canal. The what includes detailed descriptions of the work that went into making the canal, with a good recall of the businesses …
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Todd Stockslager ()
Ranked #38
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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About this book


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...

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ISBN-10: 0671244094
ISBN-13: 978-0671244095
Author: David McCullough
Genre: History, Science
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Date Published: October 15, 1978
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