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Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City Paperback – 4 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; Reprint edition (4 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848311478
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848311473
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 23.4 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Ford's not-so-excellent adventure in the jungle is a writer's dream and Greg Grandin takes full advantage of its dramatic potential --London Review of Books

Grandin...underscores how 'Fordlandia' is also the story of Ford's own contradictions - and by extension, those of the modern world --Times Literary Supplement

'Fordlandia' is...a genuinely readable history recounted with a novelist's sense of pace and an eye for character...engrossingly enjoyable --The Los Angeles Times

With 'Fordlandia', Greg Grandin, a professor of history at New York University, tells a haunting story --The New York Times Book Review

Magic happens when a gifted historian and master storyteller finds a treasure trove of untapped materials...'Fordlandia' is simply magical
--David Nasaw, author of Andrew Carnegie

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
I love the cover of Fordlandia. It shows an idealised American suburb with mothers and children walking down a street of bungalows, complete with white picket fences bordering the gardens, and newly-planted apple trees. However, the backdrop is undeniably the tall trees of the South American jungle, for this illustration shows Fordlandia, Henry Ford's attempt to build a new model community in Amazonia where rubber would be harvested to provide the raw materials for his ever-growing factories.

Reality in these squalid bungalows did not conform to this idealised picture. Designed in Michigan and shipped in pre-fabricated form to Brazil, the houses had poured concrete floors and metal roofs lined with asbestos, and turned out to be "midget hells, where one lies awake and sweats the first half of the night " and then "undergoes a fierce siege of heat provoking nightmares" in the second.

But let's start at the beginning. By 1928, Ford had seen considerable success with the Model T Ford, but sales were slipping drastically as newer competitors came to the market. The Model A was about to be launched and the company seemed to be about to make a startling come-back, having received orders for 700,000 model A cars. Less well-known was that the Ford Motor Company had acquired a vast land concession in the Amazon, about the same size as a mid-ranged US state. It was Henry Ford's plan to plant millions of rubber trees, but also tame the jungle, to sanitise it, and to form an idealised community with all the values of middle-America transported thousands of miles south into this notoriously inhospitable region.

The actual execution of the Fordlandia vision was an organisational nightmare.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 May 2010
Format: Paperback
"Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall." -- Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

Henry Ford prided himself on rationalizing the economic model of the assembly line by preparing, if necessary, to develop his own raw materials so that neither shortages nor costs would derail his search for ultimate efficiency. Like many before him and many since then, Ford found out the limits of his business concept the hard way . . . by seeing others develop better alternatives that undermined his company's success.

One of these concepts involved avoiding the risk of paying too much for rubber, an essential raw material for tires and components. Rubber originally came from wild harvesting in the Amazon before some seeds were taken to Southeast Asia where plantation operations revolutionized production and lowered costs. Ford dreamed of creating massive, industrial-style plantations in the Amazon. His only problem was that he didn't bother to check out the agricultural facts: It was a bad idea because rubber plants are very vulnerable to disease in the Amazon when planted close together. Employ the same idea in other parts of the world, as Firestone did in Africa, and it would have worked.

A series of other miscalculations and errors followed so that Fordlandia became an expensive social experiment into creating Midwestern-style living in the jungle. Historian Greg Grandin expands the story to provide a glimpse into Henry Ford's personal philosophies and management style.

The results of trying to establish Fordlandia and the later developments were bad for virtually everyone, the typical consequences of ill-considered ventures.

The book will tell you more than you could expect to learn on your own about this obscure Ford venture.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S Wood on 20 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
Ford's emblematic Model-T automobile and his pioneering production methods made him a very rich man in the early part of the twentieth century. He was also a man of contradictions. On one hand he was talking up combined agricultural-industrial small communities, promoting pacifism and "freedom", paid high wages and was very critical of concentrated economic power whether on Wall Street or in the Energy Trusts. But at the same time his company was one of the biggest in the States, he manufactured arms during World War 1, was a very public anti-Semite and hired a notorious thug with Mafia connections along with 3,000 Goons to make sure his workers were divided, unable to form unions and policed at work and in their private lives. Not a man one would mark down as being balanced.

One expression of his lack of balance was the purchasing of a vast tract of the Amazon to turn into a vast rubber plantation to make his company independent of the Imperial rubber concerns of Asia. The story of this enterprise forms the subject of Grandin's book "Fordlandia".

The author is a specialist on Latin America, who served on the UN commission into human rights abuses during the Guatemalan Civil War and has written copiously on the continent including the excellent Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. This background serves him admirably well in this book, though it isn't quite as compelling as the earlier work. He flits back and forth between Dearborn in Michigan (Ford's base) and the Amazon to tell the story of Fordlandia's conception, development and eventual collapse.
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