Fordlandia (Paperback)

The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City

Greg Grandin

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In 1927, Henry Ford, the founder of the famous motor company and the richest man in the world, bought a 5,000 square mile-tract of land in the Brazilian Amazon. There he was going to build a rubber plantation.

To the unkempt rainforest he would bring the principles of mass production – order, efficiency and productivity. He would harness the river itself in order to transplant capitalist civilisation to the dark heart of the jungle. But Ford wanted more than just rubber. Across the United States, small-town America was giving way to growing cities, consumerism and crass, brash new society. Ford wanted to create in the Amazon an America in his own image – Fordlandia, full of neat houses, straight roads and restrained Puritanism. By 1945 it was abandoned in ruins.

Fordlandia is the powerful, never-before-told fable of the pride and arrogance of the man who thought he alone could tame the Amazon. Filled with clash and contradiction, it is the battle between industrialised capitalism and the raw power of nature; it is the struggle too within Ford himself, the man who despised the new America that he himself had set in motion, who spent twenty years and several fortunes on his Amazonian dream, yet never set foot inside it. Superbly researched and grippingly told, Greg Grandin gives us a portrait of a man suffering under the grand delusion that the forces of capitalism, once released, might then be contained.

Greg Grandin is a professor of history at New York University and a Guggenheim fellow. He served on the United Nation’s Truth Commission investigating the Guatemalan Civil War and has written for the Los Angeles Times, the New Statesman and the New York Times.

‘Well written account of a forgotten chapter of industrial history…Grandin effectively underscores how Fordlandia is also the story of Ford’s own contradictions – and by extension, those of the modern world…’Times Literary Supplement
Hugo Chavez on author’s previous book: ‘What is happening today in Latin America? To answer this question, read Empire’s Workshop.’
”Fordlandia’ by Greg Grandin, is about Henry Ford’s doomed attempt to build a rubber plantation in the Amazon. It’s an incredible story, and one which has many lessons (still unlearnt) about how the northern hemisphere misunderstands South America.’Alex Bellos
‘The story of Ford’s not-so-excellent adventure in the jungle is a writer’s dream and Greg Grandin takes full advantage of its dramatic potential…Grandin’s assessment of Ford is by turns critical and sympathetic, but always subtle.’London Review of Books
‘Henry Ford’s vast project of building a city in the Amazonian jungle to provide his car factories with a reliable supply of rubber was greeted as a heroic civilizing mission when it started, and damned as catastrophic Western hubris when it failed. The saga remains an irresistible parable, both tragic and comic. I cannot stop thinking of Ford’s homesick managers staring glumly at the vultures overhead and dreaming of the pigeons back in Detroit. Greg Grandin’s wonderful ‘Fordlandia’ (Icon) is alive to every nuance of the story but is sparing with the condescension of posterity, reminding us that Brazil’s own loggers and soy farmers are ploughing the same cruel furrows today.’TLS
‘An absorbing account of the forgotten jungle venture … Grandin tells the story of Ford’s hubris with great skill and panache. His book works both as a gripping narrative of extraordinary events and as a telling fable of a dream destroyed by harsh realities.’Nick Rennison, Waterstones Books Quarterly
‘A case history combining some of the tragic elements of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ alongside the naïve innocence of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World…. An extraordinary tale of pride and stubbornness, a struggle on behalf of capitalism by a man who was convinced that industrialisation had given him the strength and know-how to bring even a mighty river like the Amazon to heel.’Daily Telegraph
‘Greg Grandin’s compelling new book [is] both a merciless exposé of misplaced idealism and a detailed study of the economic forces behind it.’Guardian
‘Grandin’s generous, pin-sharp book … is, above all, a tale of Ozymandian hubris.’Sunday Times
‘Grandin has a fine time excavating the collapsed ruins of a corrupted dream.’Times
‘An amazing story, brilliantly told. 10/10’Press Association
‘Thoroughly researched and carefully written.’Andrew Anthony, Observer
‘The story is a gift to any writer and Grandin tells it with an easy wit and academic rigour.’Hugh Thomson, Independent
‘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, author of ‘Andrew Carnegie’
‘‘Fordlandia’ brings to light a fascinating but little known episode in the long history of Henry Ford. His 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 analysis is penetrating, provocative, and raises crucial questions.’Steven Watts, author of ‘The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century’
‘Stranger than fiction but with the power of a first-rate novel to probe for the deepest truths, ‘Fordlandia’ is an extraordinary story of American hubris… an unforgettable tale about the tragic limitations of an industrial utopia.’Steve Fraser, author of ‘Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace’
‘As a reader, I was fascinated by this account of Henry Ford’s short-lived rain-forest utopia, complete with golf course and square dances. As a writer, I envy Greg Grandin for finding such an intriguing subject—whose decline and fall has an eerie resonance at our own historical moment.’Adam Hochschild, author of ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’
‘In placing the Ford story within in a broad social history of Amazonia, Grandin has given us something much more important than the saga of some novelty or of the exotic ambitions of a man with too much money.’Susanna Hecht, author of ‘Defenders of the Forest’
‘For all of his grand accomplishments, Henry Ford had equally spectacular boondoggles. Historian Greg Grandin brilliantly recounts Ford’s failed experiments in building a utopian community deep in the Amazon Basin. Highly recommended!’Douglas Brinkley, author of ‘Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress’
‘Proving that truth can indeed be stranger than fiction, Fordlandia is the story of Henry Ford’s ill-advised attempt to transform raw Brazilian rainforest into homespun slices of Americana. With sales of his Model-T booming, the automotive tycoon saw an opportunity to expand …’Amazon Best of the Month
‘Rich and frequently hilarious.’Sunday Times
‘The intriguing story of the forgotten city deep in the Brazilian Amazon where Henry Ford planned to build a utopian settlement: an America in his own image. He spent a fortune on the project but never set foot there, and soon it was abandoned in ruins.’Bookseller
‘Fordlandia is both fascinating and beyond fiction’

‘This story of a man’s battle to conquer nature and his own desires still resonates today’

‘Grandin has written a gem of a book- perfect material for a Werner Herzog film’Bookseller’s choice

‘Grandin’s research is filled with novelistic detours that keep the ‘Fordlandia’ story enthralling despite the slow death the city experienced.’Mike Pursley, Fortean Times
“The fate of Ford’s prehab city in Brazil, vividly described in this definitive account, holds a stark warning for today’s proponents of ‘Charter cities.'”

‘It’s a safe bet there won’t be a more definitive account’Andrew Antony, Observer

‘The book is filled with amazing asides and unbelievable stories, and paints a picture of a man who changed the way we live and work.’Robert Dex, Press Association
‘The car manufacturer Henry Ford dominates this remarkable book, managing, like Falstaff, to be its tragic hero, villain, and comic relief all at the same time.’

‘This is an extraordinary story, crisply told, its teller aghast throughout.’Spectator

‘Nothing demonstrates the eccentricity more than ‘Fordlandia.”Hugh Thomson, Independent
‘The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon’Good reads
‘‘Fordlandia’ is a wonderful primer on Henry Ford – a deeply contradictory and confusing person if ever there was one…‘Fordlandia’ is everything that a popular history book should be – and in a thought-provoking epilogue, Grandin lays out the realities of the Amazon’s current plight, in the context of which, Ford’s interventions look like small beer indeed.’Simon Appleby, Book Geeks
‘It combines readability with detailed research.’The BookBag
‘The book is illustrated throughout with contemporary photographs from ‘Fordlandia.’ I much appreciated these because without them I might have been tempted to doubt some of the more incredible stories told in these unusual book…’Common Reader
‘I found this a fascinating book. Greg Grandin skilfully blends company history and personal stories to create a very readable account of this almost unbelievable industrial hubris.’Common Reader
‘Grandin is an excellent companion for a trip into the jungle; ‘Fordlandia’ has solid notes throughout and is indicative of not only the author’s depth of research but also of his ability to tell a story.’Keith Ruffles, The Daily Rant
‘Grandin is a historian of Latin America, and that area is where he shines — telling of the relationship of Ford with Brazilian politicians, the rise and fall of the rubber-tapper economy and the nonindustrial culture of the Brazilian workers.’Bruce Ramsey, Seattle Times
‘The story, in a gifted writer’s hands, is an epic cultural clash, now almost entirely forgotten.’Brian Bethune, Macleans
‘Works both as a nice bit of recovered history and a parable.’Kirkus Reviews
‘With Fordlandia, Greg Grandin, a professor of history at New York University, tells a haunting story that falls squarely into this tradition: Henry’s Ford’s failed endeavor to export Main Street America to the jungles of Brazil.’Ben Macintyre, 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.’Stuart Ferguson, Wall Street Journal
‘Greg 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, when scores of efforts to plant our values and harvest foreign dollars brought disappointment, sometimes even despair.’David M. Shribman, Boston Sunday Globe
‘Grandin gives an exhaustive account of the project’s failure and of the light it sheds on Ford.’New Yorker
‘Thoroughly researched account of Ford’s ill-fated Amazonian rubber plantation.’Aaron Leitko, Washington Post
‘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
‘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, Chicago Sun-Times
‘Fordlandia was, ultimately, the classic American parable of a failed Utopia, of soft dreams running aground on a hard world—which 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 tone—about midway between Joseph Conrad and Evelyn Waugh.’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’ (1902) and Mark Twain’s ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ (1884).’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, Daily Beast
‘Grandin’s account is an epic tale of a clash between cultures, values, men, and nature.’David Siegfried, Booklist

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about this book

ISBN: 9781848311541

Price: 9.99 GBP 22.99 AUD 28.99 NZD

Pages: 432

Publication date: 07/10/2010

Category: Biography & Memoir, History & Current Affairs

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