Panama Fever: The Epic History of One of the Greatest Engineering Triumphs of All Time: The Building of the Panama Canal

Matthew Parker, Author . Doubleday $30 (530p) ISBN 978-0-385-51534-4

Parker (Monte Cassino: The Hardest Fought Battle of World War II ) begins this engrossing narrative of the construction of what Theodore Roosevelt called “one of the great works of the world” well before the 20th century: everyone from Benjamin Franklin to Goethe was interested in a trans-isthmus canal, and one of the most arresting sections of the book chronicles the failed French efforts, in the late 1800s, to build one. Roosevelt then called for the building of a canal in his first address to Congress. The project faced countless challenges, but Parker is especially deft when addressing the racism that magnified already appalling working conditions. Those in charge didn't want to hire white American workers, who were too expensive and too unionized (though later, whites were hired), and the discussions about workers became racialized. The “native Isthmian” was too “indolent,” but black workers from the British West Indies were viewed as “cheap and expendable.” U.S. authorities discriminated racially, paying workers unequally and trying, in general, to prevent the “intermingling of the races.” This is not a narrow history of mechanical engineering but a well-researched and satisfying account of imperial vision and social inequity. Illus., maps. (Mar. 1)

Reviewed on: 11/05/2007
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 391 pages - 978-0-307-47253-3
Ebook - 496 pages - 978-0-385-52548-0
Compact Disc - 14 pages - 978-1-60283-356-2
Paperback - 530 pages - 978-1-4000-9518-6
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