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article imageReview: David McCullough’s ‘The Path Between the Seas’ Special

By Igor I. Solar     Sep 27, 2013 in Entertainment
Panama City - David McCullough's “The Path Between the Seas,” telling the events surrounding the creation and building of The Panama Canal, is an outstanding read for history buffs and anyone planning a visit to Panama City.
The Central American Isthmus, the narrow strip of land separating North and South America rose about three million years ago, creating a land barrier between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The epic construction of a waterway connecting both oceans is the subject of the book by David McCullough entitled “The Path Between the Seas, The Creation of The Panama Canal, 1870-1914”.
David McCullough, considered a “master of the art of narrative history”, is twice winner of both the Pulitzer Prize (1993 for “Truman”, and 2002 for “John Adams”) and the National Book Award (1978 for “Path Between the Seas”, and 1982 for “Mornings on Horseback”).
This is not a new book. It was first published in 1987, but its historical relevance is such that it remains as one of the great stories of all time, and most likely will remain significant for many years to come. It’s a long account of about 650 pages printed in small font size. It is so full of interesting information (told in good and entertaining prose), documented facts, and historic photographs, that it is real pleasure to read. It covers more than 40 years of history of one of the greatest construction projects ever: the Panama Canal.
From the failed efforts of the Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps to the completion of the canal by the Americans, David McCullough masterly describes with exquisite detail the intricacies of the financial schemes, international politics and obscure legal manoeuvres that made possible the construction of the waterway between the oceans. There is also plenty of human drama, stories of success and failure, survival and death, pride and shame.
The sections of the book detailing the development of measures to control mosquito-borne diseases that decimated workers, and engineers and their families, are particularly interesting. This accomplishment not only advanced science, but made possible the continuation and completion of the work. The final chapters provide many particulars about the dimensions and operation of the locks allowing the reader to understand and admire the amazing nature of this gigantic undertaking. McCullough displays in his book a tremendous capacity for research, the detail and precision of a historian, and the talent of an entertaining storyteller.
Overall “The Path Between the Seas” is an outstanding read!
Panama Canal. North view of the Miraflores Locks   in the direction towards Gatun Lake and the Atlan...
Panama Canal. North view of the Miraflores Locks, in the direction towards Gatun Lake and the Atlantic Ocean.
Related articles on Panama:
Panama Canal — A century connecting two oceans and the world
Ruins of ‘Old Panama’ — first European settlement on the Pacific
Photo Essay: 'Vegetable ivory' carved by ethnic Wounaan of Panama
More about The Path Between the Seas, David McCullough, Panama canal, History of the Panama Canal
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