Canongate U.S.
Canongate U.S.
Canongate U.S.


How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World

by Peter Chapman

“United Fruit essentially invented not only ‘the concept and reality of the banana republic,’ but also, as Chapman shows, the concept and reality of the modern banana. [A] witty, energetic . . . breezy but insightful . . . narrative.” —New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Canongate U.S.
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date February 07, 2008
  • ISBN-13 978-1-8419-5881-1
  • Dimensions 5" x 7.75"
  • US List Price $24.00

About The Book

A sharp and lively account of the rise and fall of the United Fruit Company, arguably the most controversial global corporation ever—from the jungles of Costa Rica to the dramatic suicide of its CEO who leapt from an office on the forty-fourth floor of the Pan Am building in New York City.

In this powerful and gripping book, Peter Chapman shows how the pioneering example of the importer United Fruit set the precedent for the institutionalized greed of today’s multinational companies.

The story has its source in United Fruit’s nineteenth-century beginnings in the jungles of Costa Rica. What follows is a damning examination of the company’s policies: from the marketing of the banana as the first fast food, to the company’s involvement in an invasion of Honduras, a massacre in Colombia, and a bloody coup in Guatemala. Along the way the company fostered covert links with U.S. power brokers such as Richard Nixon and CIA operative Howard Hunt, manipulated the press (that later backfired), and stoked the revolutionary ire of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

Chapman weaves a dramatic tale of big business, deceit, and violence to show how one company wreaked irrevocable havoc in the “banana republics” of Central America, and how terrifyingly similar the age of United Fruit is to our age of globalization.


“United Fruit essentially invented not only ‘the concept and reality of the banana republic,’ but also, as Chapman shows, the concept and reality of the modern banana. [A] witty, energetic . . .breezy but insightful . . . narrative.” —New York Times Book Review

“For real white-knuckle horror in Latin America, you need look no further than a hand of bananas, or so says Peter Chapman. . . . If you only read a handful of non-fiction books this year, Jungle Capitalists is among your recommended five portions.” —Stephen Smith, Observer

“. . . Chapman’s tale of skullduggery is a page-turner . . .” —Ellen Wernecke, The Onion A.V. Club

“Finely crafted, and Chapman’s broad-brush approach to history gives it a vigorous and entertaining narrative drive. The tone also seems well matched to the rollicking adventures of his central characters, many of them rags-to-riches anti-heroes. . . . Chapman’s achievement is to make us realize what a long and complex moral journey even something as seemingly innocent as a banana has made to our fruit bowls.” —Mark Cocker, Guardian

“Engagingly told . . . Delightful cameos of Carmen Miranda, Andy Warhol, and Evelyn Waugh . . . Best is Chapman’s account of the precarious ecology of the modern banana.” —David Goldblatt, Independent

“Any tinpot regime these days tends to get called a banana republic. We have to remember they were real, vicious and bloody regimes set up and toppled at the behest of US fruit companies. Those corporations gave globalization a bad name before we even used the term, and Peter Chapman’s racy but erudite read constantly makes you wonder how much has changed. Sadly today the banana seems to be a good deal more threatened than the corporations that abused it.” —Fred Pearce, New Scientist

“Not a dull, compulsory sou-to-nuts account of the subject but a tale of corporate skullduggery, an irreversible lesson in agricultural folly and a musing the banana’s place on our collective palate . . . Chapman has written an impressive indictment of a deeply flawed corporation.” —Emily Biuso, The Nation

“An insightful history . . . [a] witty, energetic narrative.” —Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, New York Times Book Review

“A careful and detailed study . . . a satisfying and revealing read.” —Michael Brodeur, TheBoston Phoenix

“Chapman squeezes every bit of information . . . he can out of his primary sources . . . Chapman paints a fascinating portrait of a place and time too often overlooked in the history books.” —John G. Nettles, Flagpole Magazine