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The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire by Joe Jackson
The Thief at the End of the World tells the story of Henry Wickham, who left England in the middle of the nineteenth century for Central and South America to pursue his fortune. He has visions of being in the rubber industry and learned all he could while struggling with disease and a brutal way of life. The Kew Gardens in London told them that he would be paid if he returned with seeds of Brazil's most popular rubber trees, and in 1876, he smuggled 70,000 of those seeds out of Brazil. English botanists planted those seeds all around their tropical colonial sites, and when they reached maturity over thirty years later, England was able to break Brazil's monopoly in rubber and dominated the world's supply as demand for it exploded. While Wickham was finally knighted for his efforts, to the Brazilians he was no more than a criminal. Joe Jackson's book has received positive reviews with the Washington Post saying, "The Thief at the End of the World not merely is informative and instructive, it also is immensely entertaining, an attribute always to be welcomed."