California History: A Topical Approach

California History: A Topical Approach

California History: A Topical Approach

California History: A Topical Approach


This fresh departure from other California history readers offers students a compilation of engaging essays designed to complement any standard California history textbook or stand on its own as a progressive core text.

The work of ten experts, this book presents interpretive examinations of an ecletic range of topics seldom, if ever, considered in standard texts, making it a welcome choice of supplementary reading for the full range of courses in California history.


Having taught the course in California history at a state university for twenty-three years, I have long sought a reader that might engage students of different backgrounds, and of all levels. Supplementary textbooks that present strings of historiographical debates and reproduced documents are excellent tools for instructors and history majors, but they tend to bore, even overwhelm, most students. Such compilations hardly speak to the broad range of interests today's students bring to the study of California history. Finally, time constraints—especially for one faced with taking a course presented within the confines of a single semester or quarter—and limited student budgets make lengthy and expensive supplements unattractive.

With this in mind, I present California History: A Topical Approach, a collection of ten scholarly but easily readable essays to complement any standard textbook on California history. A glance at the table of contents reveals that the following works compose an eclectic mix. A look at the list of contributors confirms that the authors, some of them new scholars, some of them experts in their field, write from different perspectives. Nevertheless, the essays relate to one another in interesting and unexpected ways and sound common themes—connections readers will enjoy discovering.

A topical approach to the study of history conveys a sense of relevancy sometimes lost in textbook treatments. While some of the essays that follow go deeper than survey coverage to consider central events in California history in detail, others treat subjects simply not found in survey textbooks. All of them raise new questions.

Asking questions drives historical inquiry and gives meaning to its products. Therefore, I hope that readers will leave these pages with a new appreciation of the breadth and complexity of California history, as well as with questions of their own.

Gordon Morris Bakken Department of History California State University at Fullerton . . .

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