“The First Mountain to Be Removed: Yellow Fever Control and the Construction of the Panama Canal”
One of the most important achievements of the U.S. era of canal building in Panama (1904-1914) was the successful control of yellow fever, a disease that had plagued the American tropics for centuries and had undone the French canal building effort two decades earlier. Indeed, many US commentators depicted the successful control of yellow fever as a form of tropical conquest made possible by the recent mosquito vector discovery. But far from being a form of environmental conquest, yellow fever control was in fact a process of reengineering urban Panama and of disciplining an urban Panamanian population that was largely immune to the disease, all so that white outsiders could successful complete a massive engineering project.
Paul Sutter, Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at the University of Colorado Boulder, is the author of Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (2002) and Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South (2015). He has published widely on the American wilderness movement, the environmental history of the U.S. South, U.S. imperial environmental history, and environmental historiography. He is series editor for Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books published by the University of Washington Press.