CA History & Geography


Class Schedule


Paper Guide


Califoria Maps

Required Books:

1-Thomas Osborn, Pacific El Dorado (2013) - Text

2-Excerpts from Philip Fradkin, The Seven States of California (1995)--I will email portions of this reading

3-Eyewitness Travel: California (2016)

4-Richard Walker and Suresh Lodha, The Atlas of California (2013)

5-Malcolm Rohrbough, Days of Gold (1997)

6-William Bauer, We Were All Like Migrant Workers Here (2009)





Summer 2017






". . . But not even the soft wash of dusk could help the houses. Only dynamite would be of any use against the Mexican ranch houses, Samoan huts, Mediterranean villas, Egyptian and Japanese temples, Swiss chalets, Tudor cottages, and every possible combination of these styles that lined the slopes of the canyon.

When he noticed that they were all of plaster, lath and paper, he was charitable and blamed their shape on the materials used. Steel, stone and brick curb a builder's fancy a little, forcing him to distribute his stresses and weights and to keep his corners plumb, but plaster and paper know no law, not even that of gravity.

On the corner of La Huerta Road was a miniature Rhine castle with tarpaper turrets pierced for archers. Next to it was a highly colored shack with domes and minarets out of the Arabian Nights. Again he was charitable. Both houses were comic, but he didn't laugh, their desire to startle was so eager and guileless.”

Nathaniel West, The Day of the Locust (1939)


What is the (S)tate of California? Are we extraordinarily innovative, or especially imitative? Are we truly unique, or a mere reflection of the nation as a whole? Part of the West, or an extension of the East? What part of our State's identity is myth, and what part reality? We will chase down ideas about our "elusive Eden" by following shifting land and resource use, various cultural influences, and governing polities from the time of indigenous populations to the present. How have environmental, economic, social, and political forces molded California, and which of these do you consider most significant? How do you interpret California's history?

This is a survey class of California’s history and geography, and the goal is to gain a basic understanding of California’s spatial patterns in historical context. The two fields are a natural blend because historians often begin with geography, just as geographers study connections between the environment and people. Basic reading in this class is from Pacific El Dorado and The Seven States of California, along with the (Eyewitness) California travel guide and The Atlas of California History. Days of Gold and We Were All Workers are both traditional histories to add depth of understanding to the text and more general reading, and the examples presented by Rohrbough and Bauer provide intimate insight into California's history.

The past is all around us, and it is also my hope that you will be able to observe traces of California's history present in our region. I encourage you, as you are able, to take hikes, visit local museums, and talk to people who have experienced our history. Share with us your discoveries, along with any interesting books or film/ video forms you may find. From hikes in the Santa Monica mountains to visiting any on of the rich variety of museums, there are many ways to learn about California's past. Follow your curiosity.