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.