The Land Divided eBook cover $9.99 on Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play

(cover by Susan Erony)

The Land Divided: A History of the Panama Canal and Other Isthmian Canal Projects by Gerstle Mack (261,000 words, 62 illustrations)

“For four centuries men worked and schemed, fought and died to cut a passage through the American isthmus. The story of that long conflict is the theme of this book.

A history of the isthmian canal might appropriately be subtitled A Record of Controversy. From its inception to its completion the canal idea furnished abundant material for endless disputes. Only at rare intervals and in exceptional circumstances was it ever discussed rationally, scientifically, and dispassionately. Generally the mere mention of the project was sufficient to produce violence, to strike sparks which immediately burst into flames of bitterness and hatred. Although the magnificently equipped and smoothly operated Panama canal of today is a triumph of man’s intelligence and skill, the history of its planning reveals much more ineptitude than competence, more stupidity than wisdom, more chicanery than probity, more greed than unselfish devotion. To us who, gifted with hindsight, are no longer agitated by the pros and cons of these combats, the chief interest of the story lies in its fantastic confusion of baseness and nobility, ignorance and knowledge, failure and achievement.

Controversy over canal projects assumed various forms. The most fruitful source of disagreement was the question of location... Often the advocates of a canal — any canal — found themselves at odds with those who preferred a highway or a railway to connect the oceans...

Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been published about the canal and canal projects, but with a few exceptions all are devoted to the discussion of a single phase of the subject or of a particular period. There are books about the political, economic, strategic, hygienic, and engineering aspects of the canal problem, about special events and episodes, individual schemes and adventures. This volume represents an endeavor to combine all of these elements, which in truth are closely related, into one general history covering the entire field in considerable detail and extending without a break from the discovery of the New World to the present day.” — Gerstle Mack,
Preface, The Land Divided

“Over the last four centuries there has accumulated a vast literature relating to scores of projects for linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the American tropics... Mr. Mack has undertaken, in the volume under review, to combine these numerous and varied sources into a history of all interoceanic canal projects in the Western Hemisphere from the discovery of America to the present day. The result is a work of unparalleled comprehensiveness in this field, based upon extensive research, and presented in a well-organized and exceptionally readable form... [of] superior merit.” — Dwight C. Miner,
The American Historical Review

“[This] book is important. It is the first definitive history of the Panama Canal, richly complete with colorful details of the explorations, conquests, intrigues, crackpot theories and engineering genius that went into the making of it...
The Land Divided is an important book.” — Nina Brown Baker, The New York Times

“A history of the Panama Canal which should provide for study and reference the definitive book on that project. From the 16th century explorers, the search for the ‘doubtful strait’, the first conception of an artificial canal in 1529, this outlines the adventures and aggressions in Spanish waters down to the 19th century and the French revival of the project of a canal. Meticulous tracing of the controversy, of local affairs in Panama, of political and international claims and disputes, of private interests vying with government interests, innumerable surveys, accelerated interest as the gold discoveries in California emphasized the need. Then de Lesseps, and the grandiose scheme and tragic failure, the bankruptcy of the Panama Canal Company and the ensuing scandals. The formation of a new international company, rivalry between Nicaragua and Panama, the U.S. purchase of the concession, the decision for the lock canal, and the amazing achievement with Gorgas and Goethals responsible. A history which is history, politics, finance, science, and which ignores no phase and no detail of the accomplishment that was to unite the world.” —

“[A]n exhaustive history of the Panama Canal... The author has achieved splendid success in his five years of careful research, compilation, and presentation of a full-length history of all the elements present in the creation of the canal... the author deserves recognition for his painstaking effort and ability in writing this scholarly volume.” — Lieutenant Commander E. H. Clark, Jr.,
Proceedings of the US Naval Institute

“The economic historian will find this book interesting and useful. It covers the whole history of the isthmian route — the search for a strait, the transit business, the abortive canal projects, the construction of the Panama Canal.” — Fred Harvey Harrington,
The Journal of Economic History

“Of prime interest to the historian and economist perhaps, this book should be a welcome addition to any serious geographical library. It is a systematic and well documented history of the Panama Canal and other isthmian canal projects... Mr. Mack has produced a most useful and readable account.” — F. W. M.,
The Geographical Journal

“In telling the whole story of the Panama Canal in
all its aspects, this book is not only a valuable contribution to medical history, but also to the history of geography and exploration, the history of engineering and economics, the history of diplomacy and imperialism...The choice of the subject of the book, so extraordinarily rich in potentialities, was in itself a stroke of genius... the author has given us not only an extremely interesting and readable book, but, what is more, a complete and reliable study, based on first hand sources. Mr. Mack... has greatly enhanced an already enviable record.” — Erwin A. Ackernecht, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“[A] book written with knowledge and insight.” — William E. Rudolph,
Geographical Review

“[A] useful work of reference.” — Roscoe R. Hill,
Political Science Quarterly