Scenes from a real-life wonderland gone wrong

In 1927, the richest man in the world, Henry Ford, bought a rubber plantation in Brazil — it was the size of Tennessee. Ford’s intent was to control rubber farming for tire production, but the project quickly expanded into new territory. In Fordlandia, NYU professor Greg Grandin describes the disastrous fallout.

Grandin travels to the abandoned site, sifts through forgotten archives, and describes Ford’s grander ambition: to introduce Midwestern values to one of the wildest spots on earth. The industrialist brought golf courses, indoor plumbing, movie theaters, and square dances to the local population. He also tried to enforce Prohibition. But the Brazilians weren’t, by and large, having any of it. Grandin’s book is an adventure that doubles as a parable about the limits of economic and social expansionism: a story that has particular resonance today.

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. Scenes from a real-life wonderland gone wrong