Yes, hundreds of other kindred spirits did the same as me! On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal we were reminded of David McCullough’s The Path Between The Seas and rushed out to purchase this acclaimed historical work. As a testament to its relevance, the book again appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List on Sunday, September 7th, 2014, 37 years after its original publication in 1977!
The epic story of the building of the Panama Canal, started by the French, completed by the Americans, could not have been better told than through a David McCullough narrative. The Path Between The Seas details every nuance of this unprecedented enterprise in world history.
Despite the enormity of the subject, McCullough’s story telling never gets bogged down in detail but rather enlightens and educates the reader into understanding the complexities of the entire undertaking. Meet the fascinating Frenchman Ferdinand deLesseps, the promoter of the Suez Canal, whose failure at Panama, ensured the ultimate completion by America of an enterprise the scale of which had never before been attempted by mankind. It literally required a revolution to reorganize the geography and power structure of the world.
McCullough masterfully tells the story of the canal. The politics, money, ego’s, intrigue and with great insight to the racial issues surrounding 45,000 West Indian black men and women whose manual labor made the building of the canal possible. The development of the engineering skills and construction knowledge previously unknown and untested became miracles in their application. ” We are facing a proposition greater than was ever undertaken in engineering history. ”
Combined with the enormity of the engineering and logistical challenge was the understanding the once the American’s bought out the failed French effort, the first priority would be ridding the Canal Zone of Yellow Fever and Malaria which had heretofore devastated the work force. The resulting benefit to medical research, while at the same time overcoming skeptical pedestrian medical views , would benefit populations worldwide for decades. No single construction effort in American History had exacted a comparable price in human lives and dollars and yet the scientific, social and economic rewards would ultimately dwarf the investment costs.
Just as in Truman, John Adams and Mornings on Horseback, McCullough combines his skills as historian with those of a storyteller resulting in a thrilling journey during an American era when anything seemed possible.