Daniel Immerwahr presents “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Guano But Were Afraid to Ask”
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
In the 19th century, the droppings of sea birds on certain Pacific islands were know as “white gold.” Promising to restore fertility to the parched fields of the East Coast, guano became the 19th century’s miracle substance. U.S. farmers eager for it nearly induced their government to invade Peru. Although the world was spared that war, the United States did lay claim to nearly a hundred Pacific and Caribbean islands. In a little known episode of U.S. history, the pursuit of guano not only changed the face of agriculture, but also changed the borders of the country, with consequences that endure to the present day.
Immerwahr teaches history at Northwestern University and is a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow for 2015-16 at The Huntington, where he has been writing his second book, "How to Hide an Empire: Geography and Power in the Greater United States."