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Publisher's Summary

In the grand tradition of David McCullough and Ron Chernow, the sweeping story of the 19th-century American dynasties who battled for dominance of the tea and opium trades. 

There was a time, back when the United States was young and the robber barons were just starting to come into their own, when fortunes were made and lost importing luxury goods from China. It was a secretive, glamorous, often brutal business - one where teas and silks and porcelain were purchased with profits from the opium trade. But the journey by sea to New York from Canton could take six agonizing months, and so the most pressing technological challenge of the day became ensuring one’s goods arrived first to market, so they might fetch the highest price. 

Barons of the Sea tells the story of a handful of cutthroat competitors who raced to build the fastest, finest, most profitable clipper ships to carry their precious cargo to American shores. They were visionary, eccentric shipbuilders, debonair captains, and socially-ambitious merchants with names like Forbes and Delano - men whose business interests took them from the cloistered confines of China’s expatriate communities to the sin city decadence of Gold Rush-era San Francisco, and from the teeming hubbub of East Boston’s shipyards and to the lavish sitting rooms of New York’s Hudson Valley estates. 

Elegantly written and meticulously researched, Barons of the Sea is a riveting tale of innovation and ingenuity that draws back the curtain on the making of some of the nation’s greatest fortunes, and the rise and fall of an all-American industry as sordid as it was genteel.

©2018 Steven Ujifusa (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

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  • Steve
  • Coastal, OR USA
  • 07-24-18

Lost at sea

Facinating subject matter and research hampered by a lack of theme or throughline to pull it together. The book doesn't end so much as it just stops. I had to listen to the last chapter twice just to see if I'd missed something. Worth it for me, but perhaps not good for the casual reader.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Engaging tale of the clipper ship era

Mr. Ujifusa paints a masterful story of the race to build the fastest clipper ships for trade to China, California, and eventually Australia. Weaving in the roots of some of America’s founding families, this book keeps you engaged. The narrator does an excellent job with the material.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very interesting history

Listening to this one can understand why the Chinese government doesn’t like the west - forcing opium on their people. Very interesting and a good listen.

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entertaining, educational and well-told

the headline says it all- do I really need to say more audible? Audible's minimum review is itself an annoyance.

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must read

if you have any interest in the great sailing ships this is a must read book