Detailed and comprehensive history of the Panama Canal from the early days of the French effort to the completion by the US Clearly building the canal in such a disease infested area was a problem to say the least nobody knows the death toll but is was certainly huge Another age for sure such casualties wouldn t even be considered remotely acceptable today.Interesting history of Panama itself and it s relationship to and with the US Hadn t appreciated the roll the US played in getting this done Fascinating and does what it says in the title, really finishing pretty much with the completion of the work and no history subsequently. Having been all the way through the canal within the past few months, I picked up this book to try to get a feel for how this marvel of engineering came about Parker s book is very well written and does a fine job of explaining the history of the building of the canal so that non technical people like myself can understand it He begins in the time of the Spanish explorers, when Balboa was able to walk from ocean to ocean over the narrow isthmus of land there, through the French efforts and debacle under the aegis of Ferdinand deLesseps, the builder of the Suez Canal, through the Americans time there and their ultimate completion of the Canal What Parker manages to convey is that the story of how America got its foothold in Panama is not a pretty one Nor was the story of its construction the death tolls were staggering Another plus of this book is that Parker avoids telling the story from solely the views of American white men he takes a lot of his information from journals and stories left behind by workers from Jamaica and Barbados, whose treatment as minorities was unequal to say the very least African American workers looking for work there were soon disillusioned as well Even though the people from the West Indies were lauded by the engineers as being the best workers, their treatment was deplorable Parker also looks at the toll taken by diseases yellow fever, malaria and how the US Government at first pooh poohed the efforts of Dr William C Gorgas, later Surgeon General of the US in his advocating of the eradication of conditions that were conducive to the spread of these diseases The author s look at US intervention in Panamanian politics was eye opening as well Overall, it was a fine book a bit rushed toward the end but still quite good I would have liked to have read about the effects of the canal building effort on the environment, but I suppose that s another volume unto itself Recommended for people who like a well written and easily accessible history also for people who are interested in the topic Beware it s a weighty book but imho, well worth every second spent reading it. The Building Of The Panama Canal Was One Of The Greatest Engineering Feats In Human History A Tale Of Exploration, Conquest, Money, Politics, And Medicine, Panama Fever Charts The Challenges That Marked The Long, Labyrinthine Road To The Building Of The Canal Drawing On A Wealth Of New Materials And Sources, Matthew Parker Brings To Life The Men Who Recognized The Impact A Canal Would Have On Global Politics And Economics, And Adds New Depth To The Familiar Story Of Teddy Roosevelt S Remarkable Triumph In Making The Waterway A RealityAs Thousands Of Workers Succumbed To Dysentery, Yellow Fever, And Malaria, Scientists Raced To Stop The Deadly Epidemics So That Work Could Continue The Treatments They Developed Changed The Course Of Medical History The Opening Of The Panama Canal In Spelled The End Of The Victorian Age And The Beginning Of The American Century Panama Fever Brilliantly Captures The Innovative Thinking And Backbreaking Labor, As Well As The Commercial And Political Interests, That Helped Make America A Global Power My objective reaction to this book a well researched, thorough and exhaustive history of the canal from idea to execution.My subjective reaction a dense, thick, weirdly uneven book which wears its research heavily but which is nevertheless always interesting I think the book never quite knows what it is, despite the title, and suffers at times for it The fact that it covers almost all bases by the end means you can have no real complaints, although it works best, I think, as a dip in and out reference book rather than a read cover to cover history.Anyone with any interest in the canal or French or American politics and society of the time will find a lot here to interest them Most fascinating for me were the scientific breakthroughs regarding malaria, Yellow Fever and other diseases going on in parallel with thousands upon thousands of workers and administrators dying during the building The struggle against nature, trying to build on a strip of land tangled in jungle, regularly soaked with huge quantites of water and populated by endless, dangerous creepie crawlies, is at the heart of this book and is well told.My favourite story was of an expedition during the French attempt at building the canal The teams had gone out in canoes, so high was the flood water, to assess the devastation and destruction the rainy season had wreaked on the works One noticed that the tops of the trees, the only parts poking up out of the brown floodwaters, were black and moving This, they found out, coming closer, was because they were covered in fleeing tarantulas. This tells the story of the Panama Canal from the origins of the idea with the Spanish explorers to the completion of the canal at the start of WW I Lots of detail and firsthand accounts, but Parker does a nice job of moving the story along, explaining the technical details without bogging down the human story. Another grand slam from Matthew Parker in my humble opinion and it s now official this guy is my new favorite history author.Panama Fever tells the story of the building of the Panama Canal which at the time was one of the greatest construction projects of all time This massive task which was begun and abandoned by the French and then taken up by the US would see the removal of hundreds of millions of cubic yards of soil, tens of thousands of workers from a vast number of countries and project management on an enormous scale The Canal would also see the US rise as a genuine superpower while at the same time fall in popularity, particularly in the Latin American region It is also the story of political machinations, dominant personalities and national heroes, graft and corruption and noble sacrifice The plight of the West Indies workers in particular was pretty sad and their treatment by the Americans was very poor I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any fan of history. This book was strongly recommended by a friend who visited us in Panama earlier this year Since we have now left Panama after living there for 6 years, I figured it was a case of better late than never , that this book would prove a nice nostalgic read but little After all, I had visited the Canal Museum a dozen times at least, I had watched ships go by from the observation deck many times, and I even participated in the Ocean to Ocean cayuco race in 2007 which means i actually rowed the full length of the canal under Panama s tropical summer sun So what could this book really teach me about the canal Quite a lot as it turns out It s a history book that reads like a biography, because the Canal is alive as much as any human being From the first visionnary dreams of a few spanish explorers to the american engineers that made it reality, this book extensively covers not just the 30 years it took to build but the 300 years it took to dream and finish The research done is clearly herculean witness the 40 pages of references at the end of the book but the book reads like your grandfather s tall tales by the fire It s a fascinating story of what was the most ambitious and extraordinary feat of engineering in atrocious conditions and against all odds, until we put a man in space and on the moon The building of the Suez canal was simple child s play compared to Panama s, just ask the French who despite patriotic fervor and determination, lost their battle against nature and everything it threw at them Everyone assumes the Americans waltzed right in and finished the job but their task was a lot arduous than I had known, and was only made possbile thanks to some opportune breaks and the benefit of scientific and technological progress and the expansive Prussian like politics of Teddy Roosevelt.The author covers all the obstacles that were surmounted in this epic project, including the intricate politics which made it possible, the sanitary conditions which had to be overcome, and conveys all too well the deadly and unforgiving environment which Panama represented at the time, especially for the thousands of immigrant laborers who dug this canal with their blood and tears So not only was this a fascinating read, but a very instructove one at that. I almost gave this book a three star review but held off because it was just the narrator of the audiobook brining the rating down I am very thankful to be listening to a different audiobook now with a much better narrator A British accent usually solves everything This narrator also stopped, cleared his throat and backtracked to the beginning of the sentence before continuing That probably has to say about the editing director than the narrator but still I also have to admit that when I first started listening to this audiobook I was rather distracted and did not hear much of the foundational text Thus another reason that I am giving it the benefit of the doubt Additionally, I had to stop comparing this book to McCullough s which I still think is better before I could write a decent review.This author spent a lot of time on the social and cultural aspect of building the bridge which was absolutely fascinating It did verge just a bit on the macabre with the descriptions of the death and distraction from disease and work place accidents The author clearly did his research, a whole bunch by the looks listens of each chapter He definitely knows his stuff While he takes his time and sometimes too much gets included on the page, I definitely recommend this book. Sometimes, when reading non fiction, there will be on person that sort of jumps out Not necessarily someone who was terribly important to the events, but just because they ll have a funny name, or happen to be the one that kept the most extensive diary and get quoted a lot, or have participated in some stupid but illustrative anecdote or something, and then going forward I kind of keep an eye out for them In this instance, the person is one Claude Mallet, British acting consul to Panama and as such possessor of many duties and writer of many letters About a third of the way through I had to stop and google him Reassured that he died somewhere in England aged 81 having finally been made actual consul, I could now continue reading He was acting consul, you see, because the actual consuls dropping dead from malaria, yellow fever or nervous breakdowns Most of the effort of building the canal appears to have been an utter disaster of absolutely epic the most epicest in history ever, in fact proportions, and Parker tells it all with relish The final few chapters, when the thing actually gets built go by very quickly They re just nowhere near as fun, I guess Theres forty years worth of scandals, revolutions, trials, coup d etats, lies, breakdowns and betrayals of the political and economic wrangling about the canal, which are pretty awesome Then theres the engineering story itself, which is fascinating and includes what sounds like some of the weirdest machines ever built You can see technology leaping ahead desperately, trying to do things it really just can t yet and creating total steampunk madness Where the book really shines though is in giving the bulk of the narrative over to the lives of the people who built the canal Racism, labour, health, living standards, food, entertainment, crime, death, etc It s great exactly the kind of stuff I always wish for and never seem to get enough of He doesn t neglect the great men and the political narrative, but really tries to give a sense of how life was lived in this kind of mad, artificial place that seems to have been such a product of that age. As an engineer, my life has been dedicated to projects I have worked on hundreds of them during my career and a typical drive through Southern California will usually bring me to within close proximity of at least one transformation of land that can be attributed to a personal contribution To many, these things may appear as objects that exist for their own use, created to make life easier roads, buildings, water towers, dams And even though my involvement with their creation imprints a personal connection with these objects it s still easy to forget that many others placed a human hand on their creation Panama Fever reminds its readers that one monumental object, the Panama Canal, was created through the efforts of people While some may have been boisterous enough to have the canal attributed to them by name it still could not have happened without the motivation of thousands of workers, engineers, patriots, and rebels of the Panamanian variety Thousands of people lost their lives in working to bring this thing into existence, thousands lost their livelihood through failed beliefs and investments, and yet thousands moved some small amount of earth to contribute to its completion This book tells their stories and transforms a project of monumental proportion into an achievement of monumental human effort.