With 195 ratings
By: Greg Grandin
Purchased At: $29.95
The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon
In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets.
Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford's early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia's eventual demise as a rubber plantation foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest.
More than a parable of one man's arrogant attempt to force his will on the natural world, Fordlandia depicts a desperate quest to salvage the bygone America that the Ford factory system did much to dispatch. As Greg Grandin shows in this gripping and mordantly observed history, Ford's great delusion was not that the Amazon could be tamed but that the forces of capitalism, once released, might yet be contained.
Fordlandia is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.
This book is about Henry Ford's failed experiment in Central Brazil to corner and use the rubber available for his eponymous cars in the 1920's and 30's. But this book is about more than that as I learned about Henry Ford himself and his company and vision. As cars have become a symbol of the earlier Twentieth Century (they aren't a wow item like in say 1928), Henry Ford and his massive contribution to American life has ceded into the mists of time. This great book reminds the reader of what he did.
Fordlandia was his vision of putting the American suburbs in the Brazilian jungle. It didn't quite work for various reasons that this book details, but it is a fascinating journey. An excellent and well-written history. I found the book surprisingly well-written and easy to engage, wanting to read more and more. Trapped like I was on the river in the Heart of Darkness, waiting to discover Henry Ford at the end. Pleasant read and I learned quite a bit.
The author is quick to discount the manner in which ford "blindly" set up the plantation, and the book would be stronger with more external verification of his claims. I do not doubt they are in part correct - just that they could be presented more convincingly.
I enjoyed the book very much. Having been raised in Michigan, I already knew most of the ford history, and still think a visit to greenfield village is one of the highlights of American cultural history. Its lesson on how long it took manufacturers to re- design the workplace for electricity instead of steam has played out again in my lifetime as first personal computers and then the Internet have had similarly profound impact on how we work.
This book added to that understanding. By pushing agriculture into the forest in an effort to better people's lives - as well as make money - ford was a pioneer in outsourcing. The lesson this failure taught was that trying to control the whole process just because you control most of it is often not as efficient as letting others do what they may be able do better than you. Ford himself learned this lesson can as he later bought rubber from s.e. Asia after the war. I suspect in fact he had several irons the fire with regards to sourcing.
Towards the end of the book, we see in contrast that ford's failed idea later took root as some of the Amazon was ploughed over to plant his beloved soybean. Soy grown there that is now being used as he had foreseen in manufacturing. A good idea, germinating at the wrong time, may not bloom - but it is still a good idea. Henry ford was a complicated guy, and this book serves to shed light on only some part his life. But it does a good job telling a very interesting, somewhat prophetic story.
I don't know, maybe I'm being harsh but in hindsight I can't help but wonder if I'd been just as well to have a quick read of Wikipedia and a few other sites to get the gist of what happened there and opt for a book of more mainstream historical importance.
Although many fine buildings were constructed basic errors were made about the plantations where the trees were planted too closely and suffered from all sorts of disease and no rubber was produced.Conditions deteriorated and the site was returned to Brazil in 1945.
It is interesting to note that Ford never visited the site.
A first class well researched book.
Zum Buch: Das kuriose Thema ist ergiebig und der Text ist gut bis sehr gut geschrieben. Durch die Bilder hat sich in meinem Kopf während des Lesens ein überraschend "plastisches" Bild von Fordlandia entwickelt (die Qualität der Bilder auf dem Kindle bildete zwar keinen Meilenstein der Technologie, ich würde sagen, die Qualität der Abbildungsleistung war in Ordnung). Im Verlauf der Handlung wird H. Ford immer mehr eingeflochten , weswegen das Buch gegen Ende in Richtung Biographie von H. Ford geht. Auch diese Teile empfand ich informativ und gut geschrieben.
Ich schwanke bei der Benotung zwischen vier und fünf Sternen.
Um die Kategorie mit fünf Sternen nicht zu inflationieren, habe ich auf vier Sterne abgerundet.
This book is as much about the man as the town that bore his name and Ford does not come out of this well. Buoyed by the unparalleled success and wealth his Model T and A cars brought him, he developed a dictatorial style enthusiastically assisted by his right hand henchman Harry Bennett. He was a mass of contradictions in both word and deed; wanting personal development for his workers (and paying an unheard of five dollars a day in the process) whilst using Gestapo tactics and violence against any found to be speaking out against his production line prisons or even contemplating unionism. He believed he could single-handedly revive Brazil's ailing rubber industry in the face of a proposed cartel led by none other than Winston Churchill in the main producing lands of SE Asia. Thus Fordlandia was conceived. He was a balanced individual in that he had a chip on both shoulders, distrusting and hating the government and unions equally...
Suffice to say I could write all day about this book as it left a huge impression but you really need to read it yourself to get the full story as a few paragraphs from me really can't do it any justice. The author somehow manages to get into the psyche of the man and his men and it reads like a (classy) Hollywood blockbuster at times. Henry Ford believed in creating a utopian society to free the latex "tappers" from their slave like conditions but often treated his own son with disdain and pure spite. It is painstakingly detailed with each source minutely referenced but often too much so and you are sometimes left wondering how he knew who said what to who and when. That aside, the personalities, the struggles and (small) successes are all here to read as his jungle city rose and fell - failing to reach its full potential exactly as every one of the millions of tress he planted.
Forlandia still stands in part to this day as a testimony to the man who believed he could overcome nature for the benefit of all but did not once set foot there. An epic tale, fantastically well told.