History of California

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The History of California extends from the European explorers to the present; the Prehistory includes the story of the Indians. For current conditions see California.

Colonial History


Spanish explorers sailed along the coast of California from the early 1500s to the mid-1700s, but no settlements were established. During the last quarter of the 18th century, the first European settlements were established in California. Father Junípero Serra, a Franciscan missionary, founded the mission chain, starting with San Diego de Alcalá in 1769. The California Missions comprised a series of outposts established to spread the Christianity among the local Native Americans, with the added benefit of confirming historic Spanish claims to the area. The missions introduced European technology, livestock and crops, as well as diseases previously unknown, which decimated the tribes.[1]

The first quarter of the 19th century continued the slow colonization of the southern central, with a Hispanic population of about 10,000 by 1846 living mostly on cattle ranches. before 1820, Spanish influence was marked by the chain of missions reaching from San Diego to just north of today's San Francisco Bay area, and extended inland approximately 25 to 50 miles from the missions. Outside of this zone, thousands of Native Americans were continuing to lead traditional lives. The Mexican government closed the missions.

The highway and missions have become for many a romantic symbol of an idyllic and peaceful past. The "Mission Revival Style" was an architectural movement that drew its inspiration from this idealized view of California's past. The Spanish encouraged settlement of California with large land grants which were turned into ranchos, where cattle and sheep were raised. The Hispanic population reached about 10,000 in the 1840s, located primarily in ranches along the coast of southern California.

Conquest, 1846

see Conquest of California

The United States captured California from Mexico in 1846 in the Mexican American War. At the time no one knew there was gold in California. There was little blood shed, for the Mexican government had withdrawn most of its forces to suppress rebels elsewhere, and the 10,000 local Hispanics (called "Californios") generally welcomed the new government. For three weeks in 1846 a few hundred Americans in Sonoma declared their independence using the name, "Republic of California", with its "Bear Flag", now part of the official state flag. Then John C. Fremont and the U.S. Army came and took control. The Army was in charge of all of California until it achieved statehood in 1850.

Gold Rush to 1900

Gold Rush

In January 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 40 miles east of Sacramento — beginning the great California Gold Rush, which had the most extensive impact on population growth of the state of any era.[2]

The Gold Rush brought the world to California. By 1855, some 300,000 "Forty-Niners" had arrived from every continent; many left after a year or so—some rich, most not very rich. A precipitous drop in the Native American population occurred in the decade after the discovery of gold.

With the discovery of gold in 1848 in the north, the California Gold Rush was one of the great migrations in world history. Population soon reached 100,000 (almost all in the north). The miners and merchants settled in towns along what is now State Highway 49, and settlements sprang up along the Siskiyou Trail as gold was discovered elsewhere in California (notably in Siskiyou County). The nearest deep-water seaport was San Francisco, and it became an overnight metropolis and the base for bankers who financed exploration for gold.

Precious metals drove the state economy well into the 1860s. The needs of the fast-growing population—almost all adult men—stimulated the rapid growth of San Francisco as a shipping, banking and wholesaling center for the entire West Coast. Agriculture, commerce, and manufacturing grew. In the 1860s and 1870s new wealth poured in from the rich silver deposits of the Comstock Lode in nearby Nevada.

Statehood: 1849-1850

In 1847-49 California was run by the U.S. military; local government continued to be run by alcaldes (mayors) in most places; but now some were Americans. Bennett Riley, the last military governor, called a constitutional convention to meet in Monterey in September 1849. Its 48 delegates were mostly pre-1846 American settlers; 8 were Californios. They unanimously outlawed slavery and set up a government that operated for 10 months before California was given official statehood by Congress on September 9, 1850 as part of the Compromise of 1850. California thus became a state in record time, for the Americans realized the necessity of orderly government in the far-off land of gold. Slavery was outlawed because no one wanted the rich slave owners moving in to buy up the mines and squeeze out free labor. Thanks to the migrants there were plenty of voluntary workers.[3] A series of small towns were used briefly as the state capital until finally Sacramento was selected in 1854.

The Civil War

Because of the distance factor, California played a minor role in the American Civil War. Although some settlers sympathized with the Confederacy, they were not allowed to organize and their newspapers were closed down. Former U.S. Senator William Gwin, a Confederate sympathizer, was arrested and fled to Europe. Powerful capitalists dominated state politics through their control of mines, shipping, and finance, using the new Republican party. Nearly all the men who volunteered as soldiers stayed in the West to guard facilities. Some 2,350 men in the "California Column" marched east across Arizona in 1862 to expel the Confederates from Arizona and New Mexico. The California Column spent most of its energy fighting hostile Indians.


Ships provided easy, cheap, slow links among the coastal towns. within California and on routes leading there. The Panama route provided a shortcut for getting from the East Coast to California and a brisk maritime trade developed, featuring fast clipper ships.[4]

Steamboats (which needed fresh water and wood every day) plied the Bay Area and the rivers that flowed from the goldfields, moving passengers and supplies. With few roads, pack trains brought supplies to the miners. Soon a system of wagon roads, bridges, and ferries was set up. Large freight wagons replaced pack trains, and crude roads made it easier to get to the mining camps, enabling express companies to deliver mail and packages to the miners. Stagecoach lines eventually created routes connecting Missouri to California. By 1869,

Ships brought in many miners from around the globe. Other 49ers, as the Gold Rush arrivals were called, walked overland, with 17,000 to 25,000 taking the southern route from Texas through Arizona, and 25,000-30,000 on the better-known northern route from Kansas.

Before the 1870s, stagecoaches provided the primary form of transportation between towns. Even when railroads arrived stages were essential to link more remote areas to the railheads. Top of the line in quality, with least discomfort was the nine-passenger Concord, but the cheaper, rougher “mud wagons” were also in general use. The Wells Fargo company contracted with independent lines to deliver its express packages and transport gold bullion and coins. Stagecoach travel was usually uncomfortable as passengers shared limited space. Drivers were famous for their skill in driving six horses down winding roads at top speed, rarely overturning. Competition reduced fares to as little a two cents per mile on some routes. Bandits found robbing coaches a profitable if risky venture. US government mail subsidies provided essential base income, but running a stage line was a financially unstable business enterprise.

When the Central Pacific (built east from San Francisco using Chinese laborers) reached Utah in 1869 it linked with the Union Pacific Railroad, built west from Omaha using Irish labor. The transcontinental route meant it was no longer necessary to travel for six+ months by ship or on foot to reach the golden state; travel from Chicago to San Francisco took less than six days. The plunge in the cost and time of travel ended the state's isolation, and brought in cheap manufactured goods, along with more migrants.

Labor politics and the rise of Nativism

After the Civil War ended in 1865, northern California continued to grow rapidly. Independent miners were largely displaced by large corporate mining operations. Local railroads emerged, using equipment shipped around the horn of South America. The railroad companies and the mining companies became large-scale employers. The decisive event was the opening of the transcontinental railroad in 1869; six days by train brought a traveler from Chicago to San Francisco, compared to six months by ship. Thousands of Chinese men arrived (and a few women), lured by high cash wages. They were expelled from the mine fields. Most returned to China after the Central Pacific was built. Those who stayed mostly moved to the Chinatowns in San Francisco and a few other cities, where they were relatively safe from violent attacks they suffered elsewhere.

From 1850 through 1900, anti-Chinese nativist sentiment resulted in the passage of innumerable laws, many of which remained in effect well into the middle of the 20th century. The most flagrant episode was probably the creation and ratification of a new state constitution in 1879. Thanks to vigorous lobbying by the anti-Chinese Workingmen's Party, led by Dennis Kearney (an immigrant from Ireland), Article XIX of the 1879 state constitution forbade corporations from hiring Chinese coolies, and empowered all California cities and counties to completely expel Chinese persons or to limit where they could reside. It was repealed in 1952.

The 1879 constitutional convention also dispatched a message to Congress pleading for strong immigration restrictions, which led to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. The Act was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1889, and it would not be repealed by Congress until 1943. Nativists sentiments later led to a "Gentlemen's Agreement" with Japan in 1907, by which Japan voluntarily agreed to restrict emigration to the United States. California also passed an Alien Land Act which barred aliens, especially Asians, from holding title to land. Because it was difficult for people born in Asia to obtain U.S. citizenship until the 1960s, land ownership titles were held by their American-born children, who were full citizens. The law was overturned by the California Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1952.

In 1886, when a Chinese laundry owner challenged the constitutionality of a San Francisco ordinance clearly designed to drive Chinese laundries out of business, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor, and in doing so, laid the theoretical foundation for modern equal protection constitutional law. See Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886). Meanwhile, even with severe restrictions on Asian immigration, tensions between unskilled workers and wealthy landowners persisted up to and through the Great Depression. Novelist Jack London writes of the struggles of workers in the city of Oakland in his visionary classic, Valley of the Moon, a title evoking the pristine situation of Sonoma County between sea and mountains, redwoods and oaks, fog and sunshine.

Southern California

Southern California until now had a small population, but suddenly began growing rapidly in the 1880s. The arrival of the Southern Pacific railroad, with connections to the east, opened up right farm land, attracting migrants from the Middle West. Boosters advertised the mild sunny climate and stressed the unlimited economic opportunities, as hundreds of thousands of people rushed in. The boom launched wild speculation in real estate and developers platted dozens of promised cities, most of which never materialized. Decline set in by 1890, real estate prices plummeted, and the boom ended. Nevertheless, the boom had lasting positive effects because the influx of population and capital energized some cities and generated the development of hotels, churches, schools, social and civic organizations, and new industries. The small Hispanic population was now vastly outnumbered, as the region took on the values and outlooks of the Middle West.[5]


The Depression of the 1890s slowed the state's growth but did not cause the widespread hardship common back east. The major issues were the depression, state expenditures, gold and silver, and railroad regulation. Governor James H. Budd (1853-1908), a Bourbon Democrat in office from 1895 to 1899, was a statesman of conservative integrity. However he faced a legislature with large Republican majorities after the GOP landslide in 1894 and was the last Democratic Governor until 1938.[6]

All too common was the spoils politician on retainer from the Huntington's Southern Pacific Railroad. Huntington failed to stop Los Angeles from getting federal funds for its own port at San Pedro,[7] and was forced to repay the federal government for the land grants of the 1860s, but otherwise got his way to the disgust of the growing middle class whose moralism could not tolerate the corruption of political bosses in both parties. The reform-minded cringed as local public utilities, beer dealers, and other groups seeking special laws set up their own networks of influence among venal officials; The entire state seemed to move on the lubricant of graft and privilege. The moralists tended to blame all the state's ills on Huntington and on corruption generally, but lacked a leader in the 1890s.[8]

Progressive Era: 1900-1930

Progressive politics

A coalition of reform-minded Republicans, especially in southern California, coalesced around Thomas Bard (1841-1915). Bard's election in 1899 as U.S. Senator enabled the anti-machine Republicans to sustain a continuing opposition to the Southern Pacific Railway's political power. They helped nominate George C. Pardee for governor in 1902 and formed the "Lincoln-Roosevelt League." In 1910 Hiram W. Johnson won the campaign for governor under the slogan "Kick the Southern Pacific out of politics." In 1912 Johnson became the running mate for Theodore Roosevelt on the new Progressive Party ticket.[9] By 1916, however, the Progressives were supporting labor unions, which helped them in ethnic enclaves in the larger cities but alienated the native-stock Protestant, middle-class voters who voted heavily against Senator Johnson and President Wilson in 1916.[10]

Political progressivism varied across the state. Los Angeles (population 102,000 in 1900) focused on the dangers posed by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the liquor trade, and labor unions; San Francisco (population 342,000 in 1900) confronted with a corrupt machine that was finally overthrown following the earthquake of 1906. Smaller cities like San Jose (which had a population of 22,000 in 1900) had somewhat different concerns, such as fruit cooperatives, urban development, rival rural economies, and Asian labor.[11] San Diego (population 18,000 in 1900) had both the Southern Pacific and a corrupt machine.[12]


Progressives created a new railroad commission with vastly enlarged powers and brought public utilities under state supervision. Organized businessmen were the leaders of both there reforms. The driving force for railroad regulation came less from an outraged public seeking lower rates than from shippers and merchants who wanted to stabilize their businesses. Public utility officers spearheaded campaigns for the passage, and, later, the enlargement of the Public Utilities Act. They expected that state regulation would reduce wasteful competition between their companies, improve the value of their companies' securities, and allow them to escape continual wrangling with county and municipal authorities. Although the businessmen were influential in obtaining the passage of bills incorporating many of their desires, no group of businessmen dominated the California legislature or the railroad commission in the Progressive Era. Laws desired by some businessmen were opposed by others; it is misleading to assume too sharp a dichotomy between the best interests of business groups and the general public.[13] Organized labor made significant gains during the Progressive Era, but they were not a result of the benevolent, middle-class reformer actions, but of a powerful lobbying activity on the part of unions with their solid base in San Francisco and Oakland.

In the 1920s, most progressives came to view the business culture of the day not as a repudiation of the progressive "promise of American life" but as the fulfillment of it. The most important progressive victories of 1921 were the passage of administrative reorganization laws, the King Bill, increasing corporate taxes, and a progressive budget. In 1927-31, governor Clement Calhoun Young (1869-1947) brought more progressivism to the state. A beginning was made toward public power development, state aid to handicapped poor was instituted, and California became the first state to enact a modern old-age pension law. The parks system was upgraded and California (like most states) rapidly expanded its highway program, funding it through a tax on users—that is, a tax on gasoline—and creating the California Highway Patrol.[14]


The Progressive movement aimed to purify society of its corruption, and one way was to enfranchise supposedly "pure" women as voters in 1911, nine years before the 19th Amendment enfranchised women nationally in 1920. Women's clubs flourished and turned a spotlight on issues such as public schools, dirt and pollution, and public health. California became the cleanest and healthiest state with the best educational system in the nation, thanks in large part to the women. The women did not often run for office—that was seen as entangling their purity in the inevitable backroom deals routine in politics.

Oil and more growth

In the 1920s, oil was discovered, first near Newhall, north of Los Angeles. Soon, more oil was found all over the L.A. Basin and other parts of California. It soon became the most profitable industry in the southern part of the state. The leading company was Standard Oil of California, now Chevron.

Soon, Americans from all over the country, especially the Midwest, were attracted to the mild Mediterranean climate, cheap land, and a wide variety of geography within a short drive by truck.


The first decades of the twentieth century saw the rise of the movie studio system. MGM, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers all built production facilities in in Hollywood, which was then a small subdivision known as "Hollywoodland" on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Desert movies were shot in the Mojave or in Death Valley; pirate movies used Carmel. Winter scenes were shot in the San Bernardino Mountains. Outdoor sets on studio land were created to resemble any part of the world, with simulated rain or snow as needed. By the 1930s the show-biz population had extended its reach into radio, and by the 1950s "Hollywood" was the major center of television production, hosting studios for major networks such as NBC and CBS.

Great Depression and war, 1929-1945

Socialist Upton Sinclair won the Democratic primary for governor in 1934, but voters saw through his fantasies and elected the conservative Republican

Historians have usually rated Republican James Rolph, Jr. (1859-1934) as a do-nothing governor during his term 1931-34. He deserves credit for his efforts to combat the economic depression. He was aware of the depression's impact on California's economy and employment. Rolph approved creation of state labor camps for work on highways and forestry, a model for the federal government's Civilian Conservation Corps. He used state surplus funds to meet expenses, and he applied for Reconstruction Finance Corporation loans for construction of the Oakland Bay Bridge and for emergency relief measures. But he also approved a state sales tax on retail items. By 1934 he was in poor health, and he died on 2 June. Although his record of achievement was spotty, Rolph served the state conscientiously and with some tangible accomplishments against a serious economic crisis.[15]


Unions grew rapidly under the New Deal. The most serious strike came in 1934 along the state's ports. In May 1934, dock workers and longshoremen along the West Coast went on strike for better hours and pay, a union hiring hall and a coast-wide contract. Communists were in control of the union, the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), led by Harry Bridges (1901-1990). On "Bloody Thursday", July 5, 1934, San Francisco was swept by the bloodiest rioting in three quarters of a century. Striking maritime workers, pitting themselves against police, terrorized half of the waterfront and the warehouse area of the city. The West Coast Waterfront Strike lasted 83 days with longshoremen returning to work on July 31. Arbitration was agreed to and it resulted in a victory for the strikers. and the unionization of all West Coast ports in the United States.[16]

World War II

During World War II, California's mild climate and Pacific location became a major resource for the war effort. Numerous air-training bases were established in Southern California, where most aircraft manufacturers, including Douglas Aircraft and Hughes Aircraft expanded or established factories. Major naval, shipyards were established or expanded in San Diego, Long Beach and San Francisco Bay. Mass-produced transport ships for the Army, called "Liberty Ships" were built by San Francisco Bay shipyards.

Postwar Boom: 1945-1990

California Dream

Historian Kevin Starr in his grand seven-volume history of the state has explored in great depth the "California Dream"—the realization by ordinary Californians of the American Dream. California starting in the late 19th century promised the highest possible standard of life for the middle classes, and indeed for the skilled blue collar workers and farm owners as well. Poverty existed, but was concentrated among the migrant farm workers made famous in Grapes of Wrath, where the Joad family, driven out of the Dust Bowl, searches for the California Dream. By the 1950s the Joads and the other "Oakies"and "Arkies" (migrants from Oklahoma and Arkansas) were achieving the dream too. It was not so much the upper class (who preferred to live in New York and Boston). The California Dream meant an improved and more affordable family life: a small but stylish and airy house marked by a fluidity of indoor and outdoor space, such as the ubiquitous California bungalow and a lush backyard—the stage, that is, for quiet family life in a sunny climate. It meant very good jobs, excellent roads, plentiful facilities for outdoor recreation, and the schools and universities that were the best in the world by the 1940s. James M. Cain, an eastern writer who visited the Golden State, reported in 1933 that the archetypal Californian "addresses you in easy grammar, completes his sentences, shows familiarity with good manners, and in addition gives you a pleasant smile."[17]

Explosive growth after 1920 around Los Angeles

Baby Boomers

After the war, hundreds of land developers bought land cheap, subdivided it, built on it, and got rich. Real-estate development replaced oil and agriculture as Southern California's principal industry. In 1955, Walt Disney opened the world's first theme park at Disneyland in Anaheim. In 1958, Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants quit New York City and came to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. The population of California expanded dramatically, to nearly 20 million by 1970. This was the coming-of-age of the baby boom.


In the late 1960s the baby-boom generation reached draft age, and many risked arrest to oppose the war in Vietnam. There were numerous demonstrations and strikes, most famously on the prestigious Berkeley campus of the University of California, across the bay from San Francisco. In 1965, as soon as civil rights legislation passed in Washington, angry lower class blacks rioted erupted in Watts, in the South-Central area of Los Angeles.

California still was a land of free spirits, open hearts, easy-going living. Popular music of the period bore titles such as "California Girls", "California Dreamin'", "San Francisco", "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" and "Hotel". These reflected the Californian promise of easy living in a paradisaical climate. The surfing culture burgeoned. Many took low-paying jobs and joined the surfers living in trailers at the beach and many others forsook ambition and joined the hippies free living in cities. By contrast the novels and movies set in Los Angeles reflected the unhappy, scary "film nor" style.

Hippies were young anarchistic radicals whose love of free sex and drug usage made them infamous across the nation. The most famous hippie hangout was the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. The nadir of the hippie subculture was 1967—called the "Summer of Love" by its dazed adherents. California became known as the "land of fruits and nuts," or "the left coast". It was an exaggeration, for at the same time the nerds were revolutionizing society through the computer revolution they launched from "Silicon Valley" (the area south of San Francisco).

Recent Years

Economic power house

The Golden State attracted financial, commercial and industrial entrepreneurs who made the state a world-famed engine of economic growth. The adoption of a "Master Plan for Higher Education" in 1960 allowed the development of a highly efficient system of public education in the Community Colleges and the University of California and California State University systems; by creating an educated workforce, it attracted investment, particularly in areas related to high technology. By 1980, California became recognized as the world's eighth-largest economy. Millions of workers were needed to fuel the expansion. The high population of the time caused tremendous problems with urban sprawl, traffic, pollution, and, to a lesser extent, crime.

an actual freeway interchange in Los Angeles

As traffic doubled and trebled on the expanding freeway system air pollution ("smog", a mix of smoke and fog) became worse and worse in the Los Angeles area. With city schools being closed routinely for "smog days" when the ozone levels became too unhealthy and the hills surrounding urban areas seldom visible even within a mile, Californians were ready for changes. Over the next three decades, California enacted some of the strictest anti-smog regulations in the United States and has been a leader in encouraging nonpolluting strategies for various industries, including automobiles. Only specially formulated gasoline can be sold. Freeways have carpool lanes that can be used if the car has several passengers, while electric cars can use the lanes with only a single occupant. As a result, smog is significantly reduced from its historic peak.

In the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Communism in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia flooded the state. Little Saigons were established in Westminster and Garden Grove in Orange County.

See also



  • Bakken, Gordon Morris. California History: A Topical Approach (2003), college textbook
  • Hubert Howe Bancroft. The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, vol 18-24, History of California to 1890; complete text online; famous, highly detailed narrative written in 1880s
  • Cherny, Robert W., Richard Griswold del Castillo, and Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo. Competing Visions: A History Of California (2005), college textbook
  • Cleland, Robert Glass. A History of California: The American Period (1922) 512pp online edition
  • Deverell, William, and David Igler, eds. A Companion to California History (2008), long essays by scholars excerpt and text search
  • Hart, James D. A Companion to California (2nd ed. 1987), 591 pp; encyclopedia of state history
  • Hayes, Derek. Historical Atlas of California: With Original Maps, (2007), 256pp
  • Hittell, Theodore Henry. History of California (4 vol 1898) old. detailed narrative; online edition
  • Lavender, David. California: A History. (Some libraries catalog it as California: A Bicentennial History.) States and the Nation series. New York: Norton, 1976. Short and popular
  • Rawls, James J. ed. New Directions In California History: A Book of Readings (1988)
  • Rawls, James and Walton Bean. California: An Interpretive History (8th ed 2003), college textbook; the latest version of Bean's solid 1968 text
  • Rice, Richard B., William A. Bullough, and Richard J. Orsi. Elusive Eden: A New History of California 3rd ed (2001), college textbook
  • Rolle, Andrew F. California: A History 6th ed. (2003), college textbook
  • Sucheng, Chan, and Spencer C. Olin, eds. Major Problems in California History (1996), readings in primary and secondary sources
  • Starr, Kevin. (Note that there are numerous editions of this monumental state history, with slight title changes) This is the great state history, with rich narrative and analysis of culture, literaure, social history, economics and politics

Environment, transportation, agriculture, water

  • Carle, David. Introduction to Water in California. (2004). 261 pp.
  • Deverell, William and Hise, Greg, eds. Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles. U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. 350 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Deverell, William. Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad, 1850-1910. (1994). 278 pp.
  • Godfrey, Anthony. The Ever-Changing View: A History of the National Forests in California. US Forest Service, 2005. 657 pp.
  • Griggs, Gary; Patsch, Kiki; and Savoy, Lauret, eds. Living with the Changing California Coast. (2005). 540 pp.
  • Hundley Jr., Norris. The Great Thirst: Californians and Water-A History (2nd ed 2001) excerpt and text search
  • Isenberg, Andrew C. Mining California: An Ecological History. (2005). 242 pp.
  • Jelinek, Lawrence. Harvest Empire: A History of California Agriculture (1982)
  • Merchant, Carolyn ed. Green Versus Gold: Sources In California's Environmental History (1998) readings in primary and secondary sources excerpt and text search
  • Pincetl, Stephanie S. Transforming California: A Political History of Land Use and Development (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Righter, Robert W. The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America's Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism. (2005). 303 pp.
  • Sackman, Douglas Cazaux. Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden. (2005). 386 pp.
  • Street, Richard Steven. Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769-1913. (2004). 904 pp.
  • Thompson, Gregory Lee. The Passenger Train in the Motor Age: California's Rail and Bus Industries, 1910-1941. (1993). 247 pp.

Ethnicity, gender

  • Abelmann, Nancy, and John Lie. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots (1995) online edition
  • Camarillo, Albert. Chicanos in a Changing Society: From Mexican Pueblos to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern California, 1848-1930. (1979) 336 pp.
  • Camarillo, Albert. Chicanos in California: A history of Mexican Americans in California (1984) 139pp, for middle schools.
  • Camarillo, Albert M., “Cities of Color: The New Racial Frontier in California’s Minority-Majority Cities,” Pacific Historical Review, 76 (Feb. 2007), 1–28.
  • Espiritu, Yen Le. Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries. U. of California Press, 2003. 271 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Hayes-Bautista, David E. La Nueva California: Latinos in the Golden State. U. of California Press, 2004. 263 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Kahn, Ava F. and Dollinger, Marc, eds. California Jews. U. Press of New England, 2003. 196 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Matsumoto, Valerie J. Farming the Home Place: A Japanese American Community in California, 1919-1982 (1994) excerpt and text search
  • Matthews, Glenna. Silicon Valley, Women, and the California Dream: Gender, Class, and Opportunity in the Twentieth Century. (2003). 313 pp.
  • Pitt, Leonard. The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890 (1966, 1999) online excerpt and search
  • Pitti, Stephen J. The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican Americans (2003) 320pp; online excerpt and search
  • Saxton, Alexander. The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (1971) online excerpt and search
  • Sides, Josh. L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present. (2003). 288 pp. online excerpts and search
  • Swiontek, Danielle Jean. With Ballots and Pocketbooks: Women, Labor, and Reform in Progressive California (2006)

Gold rush

  • Brands, H.W. The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Burns, John F. and Richard J. Orsi, eds; Taming the Elephant: Politics, Government, and Law in Pioneer California (2003) online edition
  • Starr, Kevin and Richard J. Orsi eds. Rooted in Barbarous Soil: People, Culture, and Community in Gold Rush California (2001)

Politics and economics

  • Boyarsky, Bill, Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics, (2007); powerful speaker of the Assembly (1961-1969), defeated for governor in 1970 by Ronald Reagan; state treasurer from 1975 until his death in 1987.
  • Cannon, Lou. Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power Public Affairs. (2003) detailed biography online excerpts
  • Dallek, Matthew. The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan's First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics. (2004). Study of 1966 election as governor. online excerpts and search
  • Deverell, William. Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad, 1850-1910, (1994) complete text online free in California
  • Erie, Steven P. Globalizing L.A.: Trade, Infrastructure, and Regional Development. Stanford U. Press, 2004. 310 pp. blurb
  • Giventer, Lawrence. Governing California (2003), short textbook; excerpt and texts search
  • Lotchin, Roger W. Fortress California, 1910-1961 (2002) excerpt and online search
  • McAfee, Ward. California's Railroad Era, 1850-1911 (1973)
  • Miller, Sally M., and Daniel A. Cornford eds. American Labor in the Era of World War II (1995) essays by scholars, mostly on California online edition
  • Mowry, George E. The California Progressives (1963), early 20th century
  • Olin, Spencer. California Politics, 1846-1920 (1981)
  • Orsi, Richard J. Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930. U(2005). 615 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Putnam, Jackson K. Jess: The Political Career of Jesse Marvin Unruh. (2005). 462 pp.
  • Rarick, Ethan. California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown. (2005). 501 pp.
  • Richardson, James. Willie Brown: A Biography, (1996) complete text online free
  • Sabin, Paul. Crude Politics: The California Oil Market, 1900-1940. (2005). 307 pp.
  • Schrag, Peter. Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future. (3d ed. 2004; original publ. 1998). 370 pp.
  • Schrag, Peter. California: America's High-Stakes Experiment (2006) excerpts and online search
  • Tutorow, Norman E. The Governor: The Life and Legacy of Leland Stanford, a California Colossus. Clark, 2004. 2 vol. 1146 pp.
  • Williams, R. Hal. The Democratic Party and California Politics, 1880-1896 (1973)

Pre 1846

  • Hurtado, Albert L. John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier. U. of Oklahoma Press, 2006. 412 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Jackson, Robert H. Missions and the Frontiers of Spanish America: A Comparative Study of the Impact of Environmental, Economic, Political, and Socio-Cultural Variations on the Missions in the Rio de la Plata Region and on the Northern Frontier of New Spain. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Pentacle, 2005. 592 pp.
  • Lightfoot, Kent G. Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers. U. of California Press, 1980. 355 pp. excerpt and online search


  • Davis, Mike, Kelly Mayhew and Jim Miller. Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See. New York: New Press, 2003.
  • Deverell, William and Hise, Greg, eds. Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles. U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. 350 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Erie, Steven P. Globalizing L.A.: Trade, Infrastructure, and Regional Development. Stanford U. Press, 2004. 310 pp. blurb
  • Fogelson, Robert M. The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 (1993) complete text online free in California
  • García, Matt. A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970 (2001),
  • Halle, David, ed. New York and Los Angeles: Politics, Society, and Culture. A Comparative View. U. of Chicago Press, 2003. 558 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Lécuyer, Christophe. Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970. M.I.T. Press, 2006. 393 pp.
  • Pitt, Leonard, and Dale Pitt. Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Pryde, Philip R. San Diego: An Introduction to the Region (2004)
  • Scott, Allen J. On Hollywood: The Place, the Industry. Princeton U. Press, 2005. 200 pp. excerpt and text search
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  • Valle, Victor M. and Torres, Rodolfo D. Latino Metropolis. 2000. 249 pp. on Los Angeles


  1. http://www.californiamissions.com/cahistory/background.html
  2. See [1] [2]
  3. Richard B. Rice et al, The Elusive Eden (1988) 191-95
  4. A. C. W. Bethel, "The Golden Skein: California's Gold-Rush Transportation Network." California History 1998-99 77(4): 250-275.
  5. Gloria Ricci Lothrop. "The Boom of the '80s Revisited". Southern California Quarterly 1993 75(3-4): 263-301 (0038-3929); William Friedricks, Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California (1992).
  6. Eric Falk Petersen, "The End of an Era: California's Gubernatorial Election of 1894," Pacific Historical Review 1969 38(2): 141-156; R. Hal Williams, The Democratic Party and California Politics 1880-1896, (1973)
  7. Huntington wanted federal subsidies to go to his own port at Santa Monica. Opposition to his maneuvers helped mobilize the local Progressive movement. See Curtis Grassman, "The Los Angeles Free Harbor Controversy and the Creation of a Progressive Coalition." Southern California Quarterly 1973 55(4): 445-468
  8. George E. Mowry, "The California Progressive and His Rationale: A Study in Middle Class Politics," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Sep., 1949), pp. 239-250 in JSTOR
  9. W. H. Hutchinson, "Prologue to Reform: the California Anti-Railroad Republicans, 1899-1905". Southern California Quarterly 1962 44(3): 175-218
  10. Michael Rogin, "Progressivism and the California Electorate," Journal of American History 1968 55(2): 297-314 in JSTOR
  11. Timothy J. Lukes, "Progressivism Off-Broadway: Reform Politics in San Jose, California, 1880-1920." Southern California Quarterly 1994 76(4): 377-400
  12. Grace L. Miller, "The Origins of the San Diego Lincoln-Roosevelt League, 1905-1909." Southern California Quarterly 1978 60(4): 421-443
  13. Mansel G. Blackford, "Businessmen and the Regulation of Railroads and Public Utilities in California during the Progressive Era." Business History Review 1970 44(3): 307-319 in JSTOR
  14. Jackson K. Putnam, "The Persistence of Progressivism in the 1920's: the Case of California," Pacific Historical Review 1966 35(4): 395-411 in JSTOR
  15. Loren B. Chan, "California during the Early 1930s: The Administration of Governor James Rolph, Jr., 1931-1934" Southern California Quarterly 1981 63(3): 262-282. Journal Issn: 0038-3929
  16. Robert W. Cherny, "Prelude to the Popular Front: The Communist Party in California, 1931-35." American Communist History 2002 1(1): 5-42 online at EBSCO
  17. Kevin Starr, Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (2009)