The answer to the first question is yes. Mr. McCullough has combined literary merit with historical skills. He has done a prodigious amount of research and has organized and evaluated his material in a balanced and scholarly manner. Although he does not use the conventional footnote form, his statements and conclusions are carefully documented. He does not permit anecdotal material to detract from the main story, a flaw of many popular histories, nor does he engage in speculation. I might only quibble that McCullough tends to favor published accounts over archival material. For this reason, he misses the relationship between Philippe Bunau-Varilla and William Nelson Cromwell, which one discovers in Bunau-Varilla’s papers, but not in his published works. In every other respect, however, McCullough is eminently thorough. The French, the North Americans, and the West Indian black laborers all receive recognition for their part in the construction of the canal. McCullough describes with fascinating detail the North American construction effort, but he does not neglect the less admirable features of the story, such as the United States role in the Panama revolution and the circumstances surrounding the negotiation of the 1903 canal treaty.

Concerning the usefulness of the book to specialists, it must be judged within its genre. It is not a monograph. Despite the claim on the jacket that “it is an account drawn from unpublished and hitherto undiscovered sources,” it does not present much that is new, nor is it a unique interpretation. Mr. McCullough is a master organizer and summarizer of a vast amount of material, most of which has been published. His book is like a pleasant reunion; he has assembled a lot of old friends, and they were never in better form. McCullough does not replace old friends like Gerstle Mack, Dwight C. Miner, and Miles P. DuVal, Jr., but he is a bright, new one, well worth having.