Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

California: A History

While on vacation last week, as I lounged under the palapas at a small seaside village near Zihuatanejo, Mexico, I read an amazing book, California: A History by Kevin Starr. It is an abridged version of his authoritative eight-volume (and growing!) history of California through 2005, covering nearly all aspects of society. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to think about where America may be headed in the 21st century. It is beautifully written and will only leave you wanting more.


Raised By Republicans said...

Dr. S,

When I first saw the title of this post and the size of the post, I thought "wow....that's a short history." Then I read it and realized it was a book suggestion. Sounds interesting! Thanks.

Dr. Strangelove said...

You're welcome!

The impact of the 1849 California Gold Rush was one of stunners. In one year, almost 100,000 people flooded into a territory where only 15,000 non-natives (including Mexicans) had lived. By the end of that year, California had organized itself as a state in an unprecedented way: Without any act of Congress--before Congress had even granted territorial status--Californians held their own state constitutional convention, elected a state government, and sent two would-be Senators to Washington, D.C. to press for statehood (granted 1850). The non-native population would triple again to 300,000 by 1855.

Of course this mass migration devastated the native population and the natural environment--and the newly established California legislature immediately tried to tax Chinese and Mexican prospectors out of the state. Violence between organized labor and the newspaper-backed corporate oligarchy began soon thereafter, along with armed assaults by some of both on foreigners. Starr argues that the Gold Rush was to California what the Civil War was to America as a whole: a defining event that set patterns still clearly evident today.

Raised By Republicans said...

Wow. That's a massive migration!

The Law Talking Guy said...

Kevin Starr is regarded as perhaps the foremost historian of California institutions. Indeed, my official copy of the California constitution I obtained at the state capitol last month contains a detailed history of the 19th century constitutional history with generous citation and reference to Starr's work.

I also recommend "Bear Flag Rising" by Dale Walker - a bit more popular but very well written.

USwest said...

I would love to read what he has to say about the old land granting system, which I understand still plagues us today.

California has always been a boom-bust sort of place.

While doing a job for a client, I once got deep into some of the anti-immigrant history in California at the Library of Congress. One of the accounts I read was of a riot in San Francisco where the Irish went storming through Chinatown burning shops and terrorizing the Chinese.

The Chinese had come to California and worked the transcontinental railroad. But they were also largely responsible for "civilizing" the mining camps. They made their money offering services to minors, like stores, laundries, bath houses, and the like. The minors, many Irish immigrants who had come from the East Coast, were happy. Then the gold ran out, and there were no jobs. The Chinese had cornered the market on the service industry. This created huge resentments. The Irish then unionized (which eventually led to the populist movement), and took out after the Chinese.

We never learned all of this in school. Too much focus on the Revolution and the Civil War. I'll have to read that.

The Law Talking Guy said...

"California has always been a boom-bust sort of place."

Indeed, since the '49ers, it has been a place where too many people have come expecting to get rich quick.