THIEF AT THE END OF THE WORLD:
Rubber, Power and the Seeds of Empire
by Joe Jackson
Pub Date: 2008
Time Magazine #2 Best Book of the Year
A riveting narrative of the true story of Henry Wickham, a reckless Victorian adventurer who went deep into the malaria-filled jungles of the Amazon and risked disease, death, and the loss of his entire family to grow rich in that contemporary El Dorado, the rubber trade. He failed, but in his despair agreed with the powers in London to raid the Amazon's most treasured possession -- its supply of Hevea brasiliensis, the valued source of "India-rubber" which grew nowhere else in the world. His unlikely success of smuggling 70,000 seeds to London changed the world economy, bankrupting Brazil, handing the world monopoly in rubber to the British Empire, and turning the U.S. against the U.K. just as the American automobile revolution envisioned a world dominion of its own.
“Astounding.” Time magazine.
"Jackson, an American, gets at something fascinating about Victorian England: how deep scholarship and daring were yoked to ruthless expansionism, a quest to control pretty much everything. . . . Wickham never really gave up on his manias. The jungle robbed him of his judgment, and that’s why this story moves and haunts. Perhaps man can’t, in the end, control nature; he can’t even control himself." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Wickham, like all the more celebrated explorer/adventurers of his day, is a creature of the past. Big corporations now do the dirty work of extracting the Third World’s resources and delivering them for the convenience of those of us in more privileged circumstances. But his remains a cautionary tale, as Jackson well understands. Exploitation is exploitation, no matter how it is done and by whom."
– Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
“The Thief at the End of the World is an absorbing account of perhaps the most spectacular boom and bust in the history of resource extraction, and of interest to us all these days as resources across the board are running out. I was particularly fascinated by the life story of Henry Wickham – which has not been told before, as far as I’m aware – and the evocation of his times, both in Victorian England and in the remote tropical outposts of the empire. Jackson’s book will occupy an honored place in my library of Amazonia.”
-- Alex Shoumatoff, author of The Rivers Amazon and The World is Burning
Rights: Contact Viking