The Panama Canal is an artificial waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. Built by the United States between 1904 and 1914, the canal stretches about forty miles. The United States controlled the canal until 1979, when it became overseen by both US and Panama authorities joined together in the Panama Canal Commission. On December 31, 1999, the United States officially relinquished its control over the canal.
Charles Mann’s book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus (Knopf, 2005) won the US National Academy of Sciences’ 2006 Keck Award for the best book of the year. In this lecture he looks at new research on pre-Columbian America. Mann concludes that the Americas had been heavily populated and developed before the arrival of Columbus but then were rapidly depopulated by the introduction of European and African diseases, giving Europeans the mistaken idea that the land was a vast, empty wilderness.