The Thief at the End of the World
Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire
By Joe Jackson
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670018536, 432pp.)
Publication Date: February 28, 2008
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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The story of one man's journey down the Amazon--and how it changed history
In 1876, a man named Henry Wickham smuggled seventy thousand rubber tree seeds out of the rainforests of Brazil and delivered them to Victorian England's most prestigious scientists at Kew Gardens. Those seeds, planted around the world in England's colonial outposts, gave rise to the great rubber boom of the early twentieth century--an explosion of entrepreneurial and scientific industry that would change the world. The story of how Wickham got his hands on those seeds--a sought-after prize for which many suffered and died--is the stuff of legend. In this utterly engaging account of obsession, greed, bravery, and betrayal, author and journalist Joe Jackson brings to life a classic Victorian fortune hunter and the empire that fueled, then abandoned, him.
In his single-minded pursuit of glory, Wickham faced deadly insects, poisonous snakes, horrific illnesses, and, ultimately, the neglect and contempt of the very government he wished to serve. His idealism and determination, as well as his outright thievery, perfectly encapsulate the essential nature of Great Britain's colonial adventure in South America. The Thief at the End of the World is a thrilling true story of reckless courage and ambition.