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History & Geography    

Lemke-Santangelo, Competing Visions of California (2005)

Deverell, A Companion Guide to California History (2008)

Fradkin, Seven States of California (1995)--portions of this book emailed

Walker, Atlas of California (2016)

DK Guide to California (2016)


Welcome to Fall 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?

This is a survey class of California’s history and geography, and the purpose is to gain a basic understanding of California’s spatial patterns in historical context. The two are a natural blend because historians often begin with geography, and geographers study connections between environment and people. Scholars in both fields consider environmental, economic, social, political, cultural history, and geographic contexts, though with a different focus. Staple reading in this class will be the textbook Competing Visions, along with Deverell's book of thoughtful essays. Fradkin's Seven States, along with the Atlas and Tour Guide, will provide a means for "traveling" the breadth and depth of California, and for writing about three of California's counties.

The past is all around us, and it is also my hope that you will be able to observe present traces of California's history. I encourage you, as you are able, to take hikes, visit local museums, and talk to people around you. Share with us your discoveries, along with any interesting books or film/ video forms you may find. I have suggested field trips which correspond with different times in California’s history—Aboriginal California to American takeover, the Gold Rush through pre-progressive era, and the twentieth century—though there are as many field trips as you can find in your imagination. Follow your curiosity.