The Canal Builders

  • by Julie Greene
  • Narrated by Karen White
  • 17 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Panama Canal has long been celebrated as a triumph of American engineering and technology. In The Canal Builders, Julie Greene reveals that this emphasis obscures a far more remarkable element of the canal's construction - the tens of thousands of workingmen and - women who traveled from around the world to build it. Drawing on research from around the globe, Greene explores the human dimensions of the Panama Canal story, revealing how it transformed perceptions of American empire at the dawn of the 20th century.For a project that would secure America's position as a leading player on the world stage, the Panama Canal had controversial beginnings. When President Theodore Roosevelt seized rights to a stretch of Panama soon after the country gained its independence, many Americans saw it as an act of scandalous land-grabbing. Yet Roosevelt believed the canal could profoundly strengthen American military and commercial power while appearing to be a benevolent project for the benefit of the world. But first it had to be built. From 1904 to 1914, in one of the greatest labor mobilizations ever, working people traveled to Panama from all over the globe - from farms and industrial towns in the United States, sugarcane plantations in the West Indies, and rocky fields in Spain and Italy. When they arrived, they faced harsh and inequitable conditions: labor unions were forbidden, workers were paid differently based on their race and nationality (with the most dangerous jobs falling to West Indians), and anyone not contributing to the project could be deported. Yet Greene reveals how canal workers and their families managed to resist government demands for efficiency at all costs, forcing many officials to revise their policies.


What the Critics Say

"Engaging." (Kirkus)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Interesting Text; Frustrating Audio

Julie Green offers a well written and engaging profile of the workers that built the Panama Canal and the issues of nationality, race and gender that directed their work and lives. Unfortunately Karen White's otherwise excellent reading was horribly marred by unforgivable errors in the pronunciation of key names. Worst of all are references throughout the book to George Goethals. His name (as anyone who lives in the NYC area knows from traffic reports about the bridge that bears his name) is pronounced "go-th-als" or "go-thulz". Instead -- (probably due to the similarity of the spelling of "Goethals" to the author "Goethe" (pronounced "Gerta") we are introduced to someone named "Ger-tals" (rhymes with "turtles"). This name appears frequently in every part of the book. Similar, but less irritating errors were made with Ferdinand de Lesseps and Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla. Every time key name was mispronounced was like fingernails on a chalk board. I don't understand how Tantor allows a production like this to proceed without even basic research into proper pronunciation. I'd rate the book **** and the audio only **. I'd stick with the print version of this one.
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- Erik

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-25-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio