The Thief at the End of the World Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire

by Joe Jackson

The Thief at the End of the World Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire Synopsis

In 1876 a man named Henry Wickham smuggled 70,000 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 20th 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, and for which he faced deadly insects, poisonous snakes, horrific illnesses, and, ultimately, the neglect and contempt of the very government he wished to serve - is the stuff of legend. His idealism and determination, as well as his outright thievery, perfectly encapsulate the essential nature of Great Britain's colonial adventure in South America.In this utterly engaging account of obsession, greed, bravery, and betrayal, Joe Jackson brings to life a classic Victorian fortune hunter and the empire that fuelled, then abandoned, him. In his single-minded persuit 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 the 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.

The Thief at the End of the World Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire Press Reviews

'The first full-length biography of this quixotic man ... Jackson is a gifted storyteller who shows that there is much more to Wickham than the famous theft ' - The Sunday Times. 'Combines broad historical sweep with the dark story of the fascinating, nearly forgotten Henry Wickham, a tragic adventurer who could have come straight from the pages of Joseph Conrad...a fabulous story' - Los Angeles Times Book Review .'Illuminating and shocking' - New Scientist .' The Thief at the End of the World is clearly the product of remarkable research... Wickham's heroic failures and his neglected love are narrated with poignancy and humour... a terrific story' - Seattle Times 'Joe Jackson's strong investigative and story-telling skills conjure up the colour and characters of Wickham's meandering path through the British colonies and beyond' - Nature .'Astounding' - Time .'Jackson vividly recreates the drama of men prepared to risk everything to understand how the world worked' - Andro Linklater, author of Measuring America . 'An exhilarating narrative, sweeping us through great discoveries and international rivalries ... Here is the drama of the scientist made real' - Jenny Uglow, author of The Lunar Men .

Book Information

ISBN: 9780715637937
Publication date: 21st August 2008
Author: Joe Jackson
Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd an imprint of Duckworth Overlook
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 432 pages
Categories: Biography: historical, political & military, Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, Colonialism & imperialism, Geographical discovery & exploration, History of science,

About Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson is the author of one novel and four works of nonfiction, including Leavenworth Train , a finalist for the 2002 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime. He was an investigative reporter for the Virginian-Pilot , covering criminal justice and death row. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.

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