What are the themes in The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough?

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The Driving Force of Capitalism

Capitalism is certainly the main driving force in the account of the building of the Panama Canal. The initial plans and foundational building of the Panama Canal began with ruthless French businessman, Count Ferdinand de Lesseps. De Lesseps had already controlled and overseen the building...

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The Driving Force of Capitalism

Capitalism is certainly the main driving force in the account of the building of the Panama Canal. The initial plans and foundational building of the Panama Canal began with ruthless French businessman, Count Ferdinand de Lesseps. De Lesseps had already controlled and overseen the building of the Suez Canal, and after completing the canal, which directly led to more European colonialism and capitalism in Northern and Eastern Africa, set his sights on the building the Panama Canal, which would, not doubt, lead to more European/US colonialism in South America. The building of the Panama Canal was incredibly dangerous and the death toll among laborers was, according to the estimates of historians, close to 30,000, most of whom were black laborers from the Caribbean.

Political Upheaval Stalling Progress

Political upheaval and revolt was intertwined throughout the history of the building of the Panama Canal. From revolts from laborers, notably from a Haitian worker and rebel, Pedro Prestan, and from political upheaval and revolutions, the building of the Panama Canal was interrupted several times. When the initial building of the canal be de Lesseps miserably failed, and the company went bankrupt, upheaval spread across the French market as nearly 100,000 Frenchmen had invested in the building of the Panama Canal. De Lesseps and his son were arrested and the project appeared doomed.

The Destructive Effects of Colonialism

The failure of this project would have certainly been better for the environment and for the indigenous peoples of the region, who would suffer greatly from the corporate take over of their homelands. However, American colonialism knows no bounds, and under Theodore Roosevelt, America took over the completion of the canal. The canal was completed through a grueling process in which many more laborers died and suffered immensely. Colonialism and capitalism took hold in the region.

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