“Grandin tells a gripping story of high hopes and deep failure, a saga that in some ways is a morality tale for the American century.”
The Boston Globe
“Historian Greg Grandin has taken what heretofore seemed just such a marginal event. . . and turned it into a fascinating historical narrative that illuminates the auto industry's contemporary crisis, the problems of globalization and the contradictions of contemporary consumerism. For all of that, this is not, however, history freighted with political pedantry. Grandin is one of blessedly expanding group of gifted American historians who assume that whatever moral the story of the past may yield, it must be a story well told. . .
Fordlandia is precisely thata genuinely readable history recounted with a novelist's sense of pace and an eye for character. It's a significant contribution to our understanding of ourselves and engrossingly enjoyable.” Timothy Rutten, The Los Angeles Times
“Fascinating. . . Indeed, Joseph Conrad's
Heart of Darkness resonates through every page of this book. . . . a haunting story.” The New York Times Book Review
“Greg Grandin's riveting account of this 'forgotten jungle city' demonstrates that in business, as well as in affairs of state, the means may be abundant but the ends still unachievable.”
The Wall Street Journal
“A sometimes horrifying, sometimes hilarious picture of the automaker's attempt to bring the light of American industry to the Amazonian heart of darkness . . . Grandin tells a marvelous tale.”
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
“Grandin, a distinguished historian of U.S. misadventures in Latin America, offers a fluently written, fair-minded guide to the Ford Motor Co.'s jungle escapades. In addition to his research in company records, he has ransacked the many Ford biographies to assemble a telling portrait of his central character.”
Brian Ladd, San Francisco Chronicle
“Grandin offers the thoroughly remarkable story of Henry Ford's attempt, from the 1920s through 1945, to transform part of Brazil's Amazon River basin into a rubber plantation and eponymous American-style company town: Fordlandia. Grandin has found a fascinating vehicle to illuminate the many contradictions of Henry Ford. . . Readers may find it a cautionary tale for the 21st century.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Excellent history. . .
Fordlandia is keenly and emotionally observed and a potent record of the last hundred years of economic thinking and U.S./South American relations in the form of a blunt blow to the head.” M.E. Collins, The Chicago Sun-Times
“Written with a flair and deftness that one might expect to find in a well-crafted novel. . . he brings to life the rogues and cranks who animate this tale. . . Excellent.”
The American Conservative
“Fordlandia was, ultimately, the classic American parable of a failed Utopia, of soft dreams running aground on a hard worldwhich tends to make the most compelling tale of all. It's such an engrossing story that one wonders why it has never been told before in book-length form. Grandin takes full command of a complicated narrative with numerous threads, and the story spills out in precisely the right toneabout midway between Joseph Conrad and Evelyn Waugh.”
The American Scholar
“An engaging and passionately written history. . . Grandin is alert to the tragedy and the unexpected moments of comedy in the story, which is at times reminiscent of both Joseph Conrad's
Heart of Darkness and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Paul Maliszewski, Wilson Quarterly
“Defines the old cliché that the truth is stranger than fiction. . . It is a masterful portrayal of capitalism and social paternalism unleashed to disastrous effect.”
Nancy Bass Wyden, The Daily Beast
“Grandin's account is an epic tale of a clash between cultures, values, men, and nature.”
David Siegfried, Booklist
“Stranger than fiction but with power of a first-rate novel to probe for the deepest truths,
Fordlandia is an extraordinary story of American hubris. Out of the Amazon jungle, Greg Grandin brings us an unforgettable tale about the tragic limitations of a capitalist utopia.” Steve Fraser, author of Wall Street: America's Dream Palace
Fordlandia brings to light a fascinating but little known episode in the long history of Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. The auto magnate's experiment with a vast rubber plantation in the Brazilian jungle involved not only economic and ecological issues of the greatest importance, but a cultural crusade to export the American Way of Life. Grandin's penetrating, provocative analysis raises important questions about the complex impulses driving the global expansion of modern capitalism.” Steven Watts, author of The Peoples Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century
“Grandin places the Ford story within in a much broader social history of Amazonia, and rather than a saga of some novelty or the vanity of the rich, makes the resistance and the failure part of a larger Amazonian history rather than just the exotic ambitions of a man with too much money.”
Susanna Hecht, Professor, School of Public Affairs and Institute of the Environment and co-author of Defenders of the Forest
“As a reader, I was fascinated by this account of Henry Ford's short-lived rainforest Utopia, complete with golf course and square dances. As a writer, I envy Greg Grandin for finding such an intriguing subjectwhose decline and fall has an eerie resonance at our own historical moment today.”
Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost
“Magic happens when a gifted historian and master storyteller finds a treasure trove of untapped materials to exploit. And Greg Grandin's book on
Fordlandia is simply magical. Here is the truly epic tale of American adventurers dispatched by Henry Ford in 1928 to conquer and civilize the Amazon by constructing an industrial/agricultural utopia the size of Tennessee. Among the dozens of reasons I will be recommending Fordlandia to friends, family, colleagues, and students is the scale and pace of the narrative, the remarkable cast of characters, the brilliantly detailed descriptions of the Brazilian jungle, and what may be the best portrait we have of Henry Ford in his final years as he struggles to recapture control of the mighty forces he has unleashed.” David Nasaw, the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at the CUNY Graduate Center and author of Andrew Carnegie
…a haunting…fascinating account…Joseph Conrad's
Heart of Darkness resonates through every page of this book, as the white men struggle and succumb to the jungle. The New York Times
…a thoroughly researched account of Ford's ill-fated Amazonian rubber plantation.
The Washington Post
Gandin, an NYU professor of Latin American history, offers the thoroughly remarkable story of Henry Ford's attempt, from the 1920s through 1945, to transform part of Brazil's Amazon River basin into a rubber plantation and eponymous American-style company town: Fordlandia. Gandin has found a fascinating vehicle to illuminate the many contradictory parts of Henry Ford: the pacifist, the internationalist, the virulent anti-Semite, the $5-a-day friend of the workingman, the anti-union crusader, the man who ushered America into the industrial age yet rejected the social changes that followed urbanization. Both infuriating and fascinating, Ford is only a piece of the Fordlandia story. The follies of colonialism and the testing of the belief that the Amazon-where "7,882 organisms could be found on any given five square miles"-could be made to produce rubber with the reliability of an auto assembly line makes a surprisingly dramatic tale. Although readers know that Fordlandia will return to the jungle, the unfolding of this unprecedented experiment is compelling. Grandin concludes that "Fordlandia represents in crystalline form the utopianism that powered Fordism-and by extension Americanism." Readers may find it a cautionary tale for the 21st century. 54 b&w photos. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Henry Ford's doomed attempt to establish a rubber industry and an attendant "work of civilization" in the rain forests of Brazil. The rising price of rubber and a threatened British-led cartel inspired the famously independent Henry Ford in 1927 to purchase a Connecticut-sized plot of land for the purpose of growing his own. The South American leaf blight and the advent of synthetic rubbers forced the company to abandon Fordlandia in 1945, long after Ford had poured millions of dollars and years of strenuous effort into the project. So why did he persist? Grandin (Latin American History/New York Univ.; Empire's Workshop: Latin America, The United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, 2006, etc.) convincingly argues that, for Ford, the enterprise was more than a purely economic venture. It was a missionary application of Ford-style capitalism-high wages, humane benefits, moral improvement-to a backward land. Ford's belief that he could harmonize industry and agriculture was always at war with the forces he had unleashed in the United States-mass-produced, affordable cars that encouraged mobility and fear induced in workers by hired thugs like Harry Bennett, who assured that the company would remain nonunion. With his vision of an industrial arcadia slipping away at home-due to what Grandin acutely terms "a blithe indifference to difference"-Ford attempted to construct in the Amazon a world he had helped obliterate in America. The author follows a succession of Ford representatives and managers overwhelmed by the challenges of doing business where the implacable terrain, jungle diseases, mounting costs, floundering construction, government bumbling and worker resistance all conspiredto sink the project. The plantation's original motive, to grow rubber, gave way to an unsustainable sociological experiment, which despite its amenities-weekly dances, movies, tennis courts, garden clubs, schools and hospitals-made no economic sense and became a mockery of the Ford Motor Company's reputation for orderliness, efficiency and synchronization. Works both as a nice bit of recovered history and a parable.
Fordlandia brings to light a fascinating but little known episode in the long history of Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. The auto magnate's experiment with a vast rubber plantation in the Brazilian jungle involved not only economic and ecological issues of the greatest importance, but a cultural crusade to export the American Way of Life. Grandin's penetrating, provocative analysis raises important questions about the complex impulses driving the global expansion of modern capitalism.
author of The Peoples Tycoon: Henry Ford and t Steven Watts