Path Between The Seas
The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914
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The building of the Panama Canal was one of the most grandiose, dramatic, and sweeping adventures of all time. Spanning nearly half a century, from its beginnings by a France in pursuit of glory to its completion by the United States on the eve of World War I, it enlisted men, nations, and money on a scale never before seen. Apart from the great wars, it was the largest, costliest single effort ever mounted anywhere on earth, and it affected the lives of tens of thousands of people throughout the world. Here in all its heartbreak and eventual triumph the epic adventure is brought vividly alive by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of such books as The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, Truman, and John Adams.
Filled with vivid detail and incident, The Path Between the Seas is not only a fact-filled account of an unprecedented engineering feat; it is also the story of the people who were caught up in it—some to win fame and fortune, others to have their reputations and even their lives destroyed. For many it was the adventure of a lifetime, an adventure whose like will never be seen again. Out of it came a revolution, the birth of a new nation, the conquest of yellow fever, and the expansion of American power.
Told from many viewpoints, this is an account drawn from previously unpublished and undiscovered sources, from interviews with actual participants and their families, from material gathered in Paris, Bogotá, Panama, the Canal Zone, and Washington. It is a canvas filled with memorable people: Ferdinand de Lesseps and his son Charles, trying to repeat de Lesseps's Suez triumph; Jules Verne; Paul Gauguin; Gustave Eiffel; A. T. Mahan and Richard Harding Davis; Senator Mark Hanna; Secretary of State John Hay; the incredible Philippe Bunau-Varilla, "the man who invented Panama"; Dr. William Gorgas; the forgotten American engineer hero John Stevens; Colonel George Washington Goethals; and, above all, Theodore Roosevelt, who "took Panama" in 1903 and left his indelible stamp on the canal.
As informative as it is fascinating, The Path Between the Seas is history told in the grand manner. With novelistic urgency it presents one of the great stories of all time in an account that will remain definitive for many years to come.
With two detailed maps and more than eighty photographs.
Read an Excerpt
There is a charm of adventure about this new quest...
The New York Times
The letter, several pages in length and signed by Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson, was addressed to Commander Thomas O. Selfridge. It was an eminently clear, altogether formal document, as expected, and had a certain majesty of tone that Commander Selfridge thought quite fitting. That he and the Secretary were personally acquainted, that they had in fact become pleasantly drunk together on one past occasion and vowed eternal friendship as their carriage rolled through the dark capital, were in no... see more
Reading Group Guide
Reader's Group Guide
1. The relations between Panamanians and the canal builders progressively worsened during the construction period. An American journalist noted, "In temperament and tradition, we are miles away from the Panamanians...the age-old hostility to the 'Gringo' is deep-rooted. Differences in language, customs and religious practices kept the breach wide." What (if anything) do you think that the canal leaders could have done to improve relations with local people? In your opinion, should that have been a priority or were there too many other pressing issues?
2. The International Congress on the Study of an Interoceanic Canal of 1879 in Paris was ostensibly an international gathering of knowledgeable delegates who would arrive at an "impartial, scientific, international sanction" about the location and type of interoceanic canal. Instead it had been conceived to "provide an inaugural ceremony for a decision already made by...Ferdinand de Lesseps. American delegate A.G. Menocal was very disappointed that the Congress lacked "serious people, professionals of proven competence" and people who "would make their decision in a spirit of reason and impartiality." Was Menocal's expectation a naïve one? Do you believe that the 1879 Congress is representative of most international congresses or was it the exception?
3. Boasting about the U see more