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Bananas!: How The United Fruit Company Shaped the World
     

Bananas!: How The United Fruit Company Shaped the World

by Peter Chapman
 

“If you only read a handful of nonfiction books this year, [Bananas!] is among your recommended five portions.” —The Observer

In this gripping exploration of corporate manuevering and subterfuge, Peter Chapman shows how the importer United Fruit set the precedent for the institutionalized power and influence of today's multinational

Overview

“If you only read a handful of nonfiction books this year, [Bananas!] is among your recommended five portions.” —The Observer

In this gripping exploration of corporate manuevering and subterfuge, Peter Chapman shows how the importer United Fruit set the precedent for the institutionalized power and influence of today's multinational companies. Bananas! is a sharp and lively account of the rise and fall of this infamous company, arguably the most controversial global corporation ever – from the jungles of Costa Rica to the dramatic suicide of its CEO, who leapt from an office on the forty-fourth floor of the Pan Am building in New York City. From the marketing of the banana as the first fast food, to the company’s involvement in an invasion of Honduras, the Bay of Pigs crisis, and a bloody coup in Guatemala, Chapman weaves a dramatic tale of big business, political deceit, and outright violence to show how one company wreaked havoc in the “banana republics” of Central America, and how terrifyingly similar the age of United Fruit is to our age of rapid globalization.

Editorial Reviews

Daniel Kurtz-Phelan
…breezy but insightful history of the company, "more powerful than many nation states…a law unto itself and accustomed to regarding the republics as its private fiefdom." United Fruit essentially invented not only "the concept and reality of the banana republic," but also, as Chapman shows, the concept and reality of the modern banana…[a] witty, energetic narrative…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

With its vast banana plantations and control of railroads and even national treasuries, the Boston-based United Fruit-known as El Pulpo, the Octopus-made the Central American countries whose economies it dominated into archetypical "banana republics." This jaundiced history briskly recaps the firm's misdeeds, including its bribery and political strong-arming, its calling in of Colombian troops who machine-gunned hundreds of strikers in 1928, its prominent role in overthrowing governments in Honduras in 1911 and Guatemala in 1954, and its fostering of a disease-prone banana monoculture that ravaged tropical landscapes. Financial Timeswriter Chapman interprets the company-with its monopolies, its union busting, its marketing campaigns to get housewives to approve bananas as between-meals snacks, its treatment of whole nations as disposable assets-as the forerunner of today's rapacious multinationals. But in making the now-defunct United Fruit the wellspring of capitalism's sins, the author insinuates more than he shows. He vaguely ties the company, with tenuous threads of inspiration rather than specific actions, to everything from Watergate to the Iraq War, and toys with the notion that it had a hand in the J.F.K. assassination. When Chapman sticks to United Fruit's real, rather than spiritual, influence, he offers a compelling cautionary tale of the evils of overmighty corporations and untrammeled globalization. (Feb.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Journalist and author Chapman (Jungle Capitalists) skillfully narrates this fascinating account of the rise and fall of the United Fruit Company, an early U.S. multinational corporation as influential as it was controversial. The diverse array of characters involved in this history includes Theodore Roosevelt, O. Henry, Carmen Miranda, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Fidel Castro, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Chapman opens the story with Eli Black, the United Fruit Company's last CEO, throwing himself from the 44th floor of New York's Pan American building. He then relates the company's history since its founding in the late 19th century and traces the history of its chief product, the banana, adeptly weaving in the business, political, and cultural background. One of the book's many interesting features is its account of Samuel Zemurray, a complex character who charted United Fruit's course for several decades, beginning in the 1930s. The company now exists within Chiquita Brands International. Chapman's history should appeal not only to business readers but to those interested in the company's context within the broader history of the last century. All in all, a first-rate book; highly recommended for all libraries.
—Lucy Heckman

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781841958811
Publisher:
Canongate U.S.
Publication date:
01/21/2008
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.75(h) x (d)

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