Class Schedule


Exam Study Guide

Paper Guide

Califoria Maps

Required Books:

1-Chan & Olin, Major Problems in California History (1997)

2-Thorne, El Capitan (2012)

3-Smith, Freedom's Frontier (2013)

4-Self, American Babylon (2003)

5-Milkman, L.A. Story (2006)

6-Various Additional Readings

Fall 2017



10/31 Tuesday No Class


"It was a splendid population--for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home--you never find that sort of people among pioneers--you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day--and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, "Well, that is California all over." Mark Twain from Roughing It (1872)

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?

This is a survey class of California’s history, and the purpose is to gain a basic and broad understanding of California’s past. We will explore California's history in lecture, discussion, reading and research. Our text is the Major Problems book by Chan and Olin. In addition, we will read El Capitan to gain insight into the lives of native Californians, and then Freedom's Frontier, American Babylon, and LA Story to view the political economy of the state during critical eras of the Gold Rush and 1850s, WWII, and then contemporary times. In these years, what opportunity do migrants and immigrants find in California? To what extent is the state's economy global--what impact does California have on the world, and what is the impact of the world on California?

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.