History of the Panama Canal
In 1825, a group of American businesspeople announced the
formation of a canal building company, with interests in constructing
a canal system across the Isthmus. This project was to take place in
an area now called Panama. The endeavor was filled with controversy.
Though the canal itself was not built until the early 1900's every
step toward the building and ownership, was saturated with difficulty.
Walter LaFeber illustrates the dilemmas in a historical analysis. In
his work he states five questions that address the significance of the
Panama Canal to United States. This paper will discuss the historical
perspective of the book's author, address pertinent three questions
and give a critique of LaFeber's work, The Panama Canal.
For proper historical analysis one must understand the
importance of the Canal. The Panama Canal and the Canal Zone (the
immediate area surrounding the Canal) are important areas used for
trade. Even before the canal was built there were to large ports on
both sides of the Isthmus. Large amounts of cargo passed through the
Isthmus by a railroad that connected the two ports. The most important
cargo was the gold mined in California before the transcontinental
railroad was completed in the United States. It has strategic
significance because of its location, acting as a gateway connecting
the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This allows for rapid naval
deployment between fleets in either ocean. These two facets make the
Panama Canal very important in the region.
LaFeber notes that Panamanian nationalism played a large role
in the creation of the canal and, consequently, the cause for the
area's constant instability. The first expression occurred in the late
1800's with Panamanian struggle for independence from Columbia. The
United States eager to build the canal, and control its operation,