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The National Book Award–winning epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal, a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat that was filled with both tragedy and triumph, told by master historian David McCullough.

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Truman, here is the national bestselling epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal. In The Path Between the Seas, acclaimed historian David McCullough delivers a first-rate drama of the sweeping human undertaking that led to the creation of this grand enterprise.

The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. Applying his remarkable gift for writing lucid, lively exposition, McCullough weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating tale.

Winner of the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs), The Path Between the Seas is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, the history of technology, international intrigue, and human drama.

Topics: Panama, Inspirational, Informative, Poignant, Theodore Roosevelt, Politics, Construction, and Maritime

Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9780743201377
List price: $12.99
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A must read for cruisers. Extremely detailed. more
David McCullough, as the subtitle spells out, here tells of the "creation of the Panama Canal," a tale spanning the first surveys in 1870 a few years after the American Civil War to the opening in 1914 just before the first World War. The tale had world dimensions I was unaware of before reading the book. As McCullough put it in his Preface: Because of the Panama Canal one nation, France, was rocked to its foundations. Another, Colombia, lost its most prized possession, the Isthmus of Panama. Nicaragua, on the verge of becoming a world crossroads, was left to wait for some future chance. The Republic of Panama was born. This doorstopper of over 600 pages is divided into three parts, and each really is a book onto itself, with plenty of surprises. The first part, "Vision" deals with the French chapter in the building of the canal; I had never known that France was involved. It continues to amaze me how much French and American history is intertwined. The French attempt to create the canal was headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was credited with building the Suez Canal, and McCullough paints him as a mix of con artist and visionary. By the time France's almost decade-long effort ended, over 20,000 workers on the canal from directors to laborers had died, primarily of malaria and yellow fever, over 287 million had been spent, and the French government had fallen over scandals involving the financing of the unfinished canal. In the next section, "Stars and Stripes Forever," we turn to a new century and the American chapter, and there we get a tale of intrigue, conspiracy and gunboat diplomacy starring Theodore Roosevelt. Finally in "The Builders" we get the story of how the canal was completed and opened. Although marred by a "rigid caste society" and "color line" on the American-governed canal zone, it's a mostly inspiring, even heroic tale, at least when it comes to the accomplishments in engineering and medicine. The story of Colonel William Crawford Gorgas, the doctor who largely wiped out yellow fever and greatly diminished malaria in the canal zone, saving thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of lives, is what stood out to me in that section.This is my first book by David McCullough, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, and after this I'd certainly read more of him. It's not only well-written and comprehensively sourced, but especially after having read a lot of histories and biographies lately, I was impressed that McCullough didn't try to smooth out the complexities and the ambiguities in this story--that there are conflicting sides and some mysteries may never solved. McCullough conducted interviews "with the descendents and friends of many of the central figures in the book" and consulted "more than four hundred books, one hundred different newspapers, magazines, technical journals and notebooks, company reports, bulletins, contracts, meteorological records, maps, surveys, boxes of press clippings, scrapbooks, photograph albums." I found the first part a bit slow, but the book picked up for me the further I got into the tale, and found the last part fascinating. He certainly made the era and personalities in his story come to life and ably explained the technical sides of the endeavor. I learned a lot. I can hardly ask for more out of a work of history.more
This is a wonderful new exploration of the building of the Panama Canal. A great natural history of Panama. A political thriller and a deeper look into the suffering of the people who constructed this grand canal.more
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Reviews

A must read for cruisers. Extremely detailed. more
David McCullough, as the subtitle spells out, here tells of the "creation of the Panama Canal," a tale spanning the first surveys in 1870 a few years after the American Civil War to the opening in 1914 just before the first World War. The tale had world dimensions I was unaware of before reading the book. As McCullough put it in his Preface: Because of the Panama Canal one nation, France, was rocked to its foundations. Another, Colombia, lost its most prized possession, the Isthmus of Panama. Nicaragua, on the verge of becoming a world crossroads, was left to wait for some future chance. The Republic of Panama was born. This doorstopper of over 600 pages is divided into three parts, and each really is a book onto itself, with plenty of surprises. The first part, "Vision" deals with the French chapter in the building of the canal; I had never known that France was involved. It continues to amaze me how much French and American history is intertwined. The French attempt to create the canal was headed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who was credited with building the Suez Canal, and McCullough paints him as a mix of con artist and visionary. By the time France's almost decade-long effort ended, over 20,000 workers on the canal from directors to laborers had died, primarily of malaria and yellow fever, over 287 million had been spent, and the French government had fallen over scandals involving the financing of the unfinished canal. In the next section, "Stars and Stripes Forever," we turn to a new century and the American chapter, and there we get a tale of intrigue, conspiracy and gunboat diplomacy starring Theodore Roosevelt. Finally in "The Builders" we get the story of how the canal was completed and opened. Although marred by a "rigid caste society" and "color line" on the American-governed canal zone, it's a mostly inspiring, even heroic tale, at least when it comes to the accomplishments in engineering and medicine. The story of Colonel William Crawford Gorgas, the doctor who largely wiped out yellow fever and greatly diminished malaria in the canal zone, saving thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of lives, is what stood out to me in that section.This is my first book by David McCullough, a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, and after this I'd certainly read more of him. It's not only well-written and comprehensively sourced, but especially after having read a lot of histories and biographies lately, I was impressed that McCullough didn't try to smooth out the complexities and the ambiguities in this story--that there are conflicting sides and some mysteries may never solved. McCullough conducted interviews "with the descendents and friends of many of the central figures in the book" and consulted "more than four hundred books, one hundred different newspapers, magazines, technical journals and notebooks, company reports, bulletins, contracts, meteorological records, maps, surveys, boxes of press clippings, scrapbooks, photograph albums." I found the first part a bit slow, but the book picked up for me the further I got into the tale, and found the last part fascinating. He certainly made the era and personalities in his story come to life and ably explained the technical sides of the endeavor. I learned a lot. I can hardly ask for more out of a work of history.more
This is a wonderful new exploration of the building of the Panama Canal. A great natural history of Panama. A political thriller and a deeper look into the suffering of the people who constructed this grand canal.more
Themes: Exploration, engineering, trade, disease, politicsSetting: Columbia and the part which became Panama, France, Washington DCI listened to this one on audio at it was very absorbing. McCullough does his usual thorough job at exploring all the aspects of the canal. It wasn't quite up to the job he did on John Adams, but it was much better than The Great Bridge.Sorry for a rather perfunctory review, but I'm a little under the weather and I keep putting it off. To sum up, I learned so much with this book. Lots in here about the history of the canal, about the French and their involvement, none of which I knew before. Then we get on to the Americans and their entry into the area. I had heard some of this before, especially about the yellow fever, but it's covered in better contest here. Great stuff. Highly recommended at 4.5 stars. Now I would love to see the canal in person, especially to get a peek behind the scenes.Oh, and about the narration - great job. He got all the various accents - French, West Indies, Irish - just right, and kept the story interesting. The only thing I didn't like was a little unpleasant surprise - "This book was abridged by..." Dang! Now I want to read the unabridged book, but I will probably wait a bit. I'm counting it anyway, as it was 18 hours or something like that.more
The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough is the history of the Panama Canal, the political, economic and engineering challenges faced by the French, then the Americans. As with most books by David McCullough I have read the story of how this of the feat was accomplished contained enough facts to authenticate the story, but also enough information about the major players to give a flavor of the events. A synopsis of the story is available. What I enjoyed most about McCullough's rendition of the story is the description of the personalities involved and, even though much indecision about the type of canal continued up until it was finally finished, there was never a doubt the canal would be built.I will give this book 4/5 because much of the book was focussed on the political events and I was more interested in the engineering aspects of the story.more
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