Jungle Capitalists

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In a more innocent age its skin was the stuff of slapstick comedy, while its priapic shape was a source of titillation and sexual innuendo.

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To the rationing-weary public of the postwar period the tropical fruit stood for life's little luxuries and better times to come. More recently, in the former communist bloc, it was nothing less than an icon for the west, while in the New World, particularly among the cluster of small states to the south of Mexico, its implications were far more sinister.

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The "banana republic" has become a byword for government corruption and repressive violence. It is these darker areas of the banana's past that are the core subject of Chapman's book. He explains the origins of the oft-used expression by taking us on a tour of the now defunct United Fruit company, a buccaneering US outfit founded in the 19th century and largely responsible for the banana's current worldwide popularity - it is the planet's fourth most important food item - and its low price.

Yet the fruit's universal availability was predicated on United Fruit's near-monopolistic control of production and ruthless exploitation of fresh markets. For many years the company's nickname was El Pulpo, the Octopus, a reference to its insidious tentacular reach.

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Chapman paints United Fruit as the prototype for the modern multinational, an enterprise whose apparent purpose was food production and trade, yet whose methods ranged from simple political interference and bribery to outright military intervention. One of the blackest moments in United Fruit's history occurred in Colombia in October , when a strike by plantation workers was quashed at the company's behest by the Colombian army, and 1, demonstrators were gunned down.


Jungle Capitalists is finely crafted, and Chapman's broad-brush approach to history gives it a vigorous and entertaining narrative drive. The tone also seems well matched to the rollicking adventures of his central characters, many of them rags-to-riches anti-heroes whose exploits the author compares to the arch-merchant-imperialist Cecil Rhodes. Guatemala, Nicaragua, in fact most of S America.

Excellent read, who would have thought bananas could cause some much trouble!! Dec 02, Sandy rated it really liked it. Definitely read this book if you are interested in Latin American history. This is the British version of the book - "Bananas" is the American version.

An informative read if some-what boring. Jules Bennett rated it it was amazing Jan 31, Louise Botha rated it really liked it Sep 25, Nik rated it liked it Mar 17, Richard rated it liked it Jul 11, Perfedge rated it really liked it Feb 08, Mick rated it liked it Oct 06, Anshuman Kishore rated it really liked it Oct 05, Gregory rated it really liked it Oct 17, Enda rated it really liked it Aug 12, Erik Surewaard rated it really liked it Feb 19, Feroz Hameed rated it it was amazing Dec 26, Robin rated it really liked it Jul 13, Patrick rated it liked it Mar 12, Ian McCabe rated it it was amazing Apr 03, Jason Michael Dunnington rated it it was amazing Sep 26, Robbert Manders rated it liked it Jan 03, Bozworth rated it liked it Apr 22, Katrina rated it really liked it Jul 02, Snowball rated it it was amazing Jul 12, Jason rated it it was amazing Oct 09, Books To Travel With rated it it was amazing Mar 06, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

Review - Jungle Capitalists by Peter Chapman

See Terms for more information. From its bullying business practices to its covert links to the US government, United Fruit blazed the trail of global capitalism through the 20th Century. Chapman weaves a dramatic tale of big business, lies and power to show how one company pioneered the growth of globalisation.

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