The Battle to Build the Canal
The brilliantly ambitious, epic story of a thirty-year battle against the elements, disease, impossible terrain and massive financial collapse to create one of the most extraordinary engineering feats in world history.
PANAMA FEVER starts as a tale of European Victorian confidence and hubris and culminates in America's ruthless achievement in joining the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans - as it moves forward to dominate the 20th Century. Matthew Parker recreates the experiences and motivations of all those caught up in this extraordinary quest, whether as chief engineer or a humble pick-and-shovel man.
In many ways the construction of the canal is a testament to the engineering self-confidence that transformed the world in the nineteenth century, the culmination of those dreams in iron, cement, stone and steel that characterized the industrial revolution and the great Victorian age of Telford, Brunel and Eiffel. The story opens a window into the distant and fascinating pre-1914 world, where anything could be achieved, where the ideas of progress, heroism and technology were as yet untainted by the industrial slaughter of the Western Front. The completion of the canal in late 1914 was both the end of the pre-Great War era and of the Victorian Age, and the beginning of a new and radically different century.
This is a remarkable book about Empire and about technology. It is also a wonderful financial thriller and a medical thriller populated by an extraordinary cast all of whom get swept up in a seemingly impossible dream.
“An epic tale of human folly and endeavour, beautifully told and researched”
John le CarrÃ©
“Matthew Parker has picked a fascinating subject and written a book worthy of it. His narrative is compelling, his ability to weave a pattern from the topics he has to cover quite remarkable. It's a story of engineering, labour relations, disease, financial crises, politics, idealism and skulduggery. It is peopled with a host of characters, some heroic, others corrupt, almost all out of the ordinary. There isn't a dull page, and if this book isn't a candidate for all the non-fiction prizes going, I shall be disappointed.”
Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph
“Parker's epic story, from the 18th century to the present day, is awesome.”
“Parker has written the Panama story for a new generation. He quotes extensively from letters and diaries of ordinary workers writing home to their families. And it is their heartfelt views on the conditions in which they lived and worked that really bring this book to life.”
“Parker's great forte in Panama Fever is to bring this complex story to life through a succession of vivid characters”
“Parker guides readers through the complicated story with a sure sense of both the larger narrative and the telling detail”
“The story is an epic one, and Parker has brilliantly done justice to every aspect of a complex episode”
Frank McLynn, Arts & Book Review