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Exploring the Canals of De Lesseps: IELTS Reading Passage with Questions & Answers

Updated on 06 February, 2024

Bulbul Sharma

Bulbul Sharma

Manager- Content @upGrad

The Canals of De Lesseps Reading Passage:

The Canals of De Lesseps represent monumental feats of engineering, carving waterways through continents and forever changing global trade routes. The Suez Canal, completed in 1869, and the Panama Canal, begun in 1881, are enduring legacies of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat and engineer whose vision and perseverance brought these projects to life.

Ferdinand de Lesseps' journey began with the Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. This ambitious project was driven by the desire to create a direct maritime route between Europe and Asia, reducing the voyage by thousands of miles and eliminating the need to navigate around Africa via the Cape of Good Hope. The undertaking was fraught with challenges, from political opposition to the logistical nightmares of disease and labor management.

The completion of the Suez Canal was celebrated as an international marvel, but de Lesseps' triumph was not without controversy. The forced labor of Egyptians and the impact on local communities sparked debates that resonate to this day regarding the human cost of grand infrastructural endeavors.

Emboldened by his success at Suez, de Lesseps set his sights on another isthmus—this time in Panama. The vision was clear: to slice through the Americas, creating a canal that would redefine maritime trade once more. However, what awaited de Lesseps in Panama was a quagmire of unforeseen difficulties. The topographical and health challenges in the dense jungles of Central America proved insurmountable for his traditional approach, and the project was eventually taken over by the United States, leading to the eventual completion of the Panama Canal in 1914.

The canals of De Lesseps, though starkly different in their stories of construction and completion, each left an indelible mark on the world. They stand as testaments to human ingenuity and the complex interplay of ambition, technology, and the indomitable spirit of progress.


Q1. Ferdinand de Lesseps is renowned for which of the following engineering feats?

A. The construction of the Eiffel Tower

B. The completion of the Suez and Panama Canals

C. The design of the Statue of Liberty

D. The invention of the steam locomotive

Q2. The Suez Canal connects which two bodies of water?

Fill in the blank: _______________________

Q3. True or False: The Suez Canal eliminated the need for ships to pass around the continent of Europe.

Q4. What was one major challenge faced during the construction of the Suez Canal?

A. Lack of funding

B. Political opposition

C. Uncooperative weather conditions

D. Lack of modern tools

Q5. The use of forced labor in the construction of the Suez Canal was a source of:

Fill in the blank: _______________________

Q6. True or False: Ferdinand de Lesseps successfully completed the Panama Canal as he did with the Suez Canal.

Q7. The failure of the Panama Canal project under de Lesseps was mainly due to:

A. International sanctions

B. Financial embezzlement

C. Underestimating the environmental challenges

D. The outbreak of World War I

Q8. The completion of the Suez Canal primarily benefited trade between which two regions?

Fill in the blank: _______________________

Q9. True or False: The Panama Canal was completed under the supervision of Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Q10. Both the Suez and Panama Canals share the common trait of:

A. Being completed without any external challenges

B. Being solely financed by the French government

C. Having significant impacts on global maritime trade

D. Being constructed without any loss of life



A1. B. The completion of the Suez and Panama Canals

Explanation: Ferdinand de Lesseps is historically recognized for his pivotal role in the development of the Suez and Panama Canals.

A2. The Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea

Explanation: The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, creating a direct maritime route between Europe and Asia.

A3. False

Explanation: The Suez Canal eliminated the need for ships to navigate around Africa, not Europe.

A4. B. Political opposition

Explanation: De Lesseps faced significant political challenges, among other difficulties, during the construction of the Suez Canal.

A5. Controversy

Explanation: The forced labor practices during the construction of the Suez Canal led to international controversy and debates about the human cost.

A6. False

Explanation: De Lesseps did not complete the Panama Canal; his efforts were thwarted by environmental and health challenges.

A7. C. Underestimating the environmental challenges

Explanation: The failure of de Lesseps in Panama was largely due to the underestimation of the region's challenging environment and health hazards.

A8. Europe and Asia

Explanation: The Suez Canal significantly benefited trade routes between Europe and Asia by providing a direct maritime link.

A9. False

Explanation: The Panama Canal was eventually completed by the United States after de Lesseps' efforts ended in failure.

A10. C. Having significant impacts on global maritime trade

Explanation: Despite the different outcomes, both canals greatly influenced global maritime trade by altering shipping routes and reducing travel distances.

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Bulbul Sharma

Manager- Content @upGrad

Bulbul is a self-driven professional and an expert writer & editor. She has been a part of the ed-tech industry for the past 2 years now and is motivated to provide study abroad aspirants with factually correct and relevant information. Her knack for impactful writing makes her blogs worth a read!

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