Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Hispanic California Revisited: Essays by Francis F. Guest, O.F.M

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Hispanic California Revisited: Essays by Francis F. Guest, O.F.M

Article excerpt

Hispanic California Revisited: Essays by Francis E Guest, O.EM. Edited and with an introduction by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr. (Santa Barbara, California: Santa Barbara Mission Archive Library. 1996. Pp. xix, 20-389.)

This volume, published by the major research center for California mission history, presents eight essays by the former director of the center. Four of the articles are concerned largely with secular life in California, and these occupy about a third of the space in the book.The others are focused on the missions, more specifically on a defense of the Franciscans and their efforts to convert the native people.

The briefest of the secular history essays describes the service of the Leather Jacket Soldiers during the first twenty years of Spanish occupation, and attempts to use conflicting payrolls to establish an accurate roster of those who served. Of more general interest is a longer essay on municipal government in Spanish California. With a third essay about the establishment of the Villa of Branciforte and another on local politics, the author creates a picture of the tensions that arose between the towns, the missionaries, and the military commanders. Written more than twenty years ago, these three articles reflect the state of scholarly research in California history before the advent of the postmodern, deconstructionist view of mission history.

In about 1980 the emphasis in California history shifted. It became popular to accuse the missionaries of all sorts of crimes and delinquencies, ranging from bad table manners to genocide. Most such charges came from people who had little or no familiarity with the manuscript sources and, as it later turned out, not much concern for the truth. Much of these deconstructionist histories is based on the seriously-flawed statistical studies of Sherburne Friend Cooke, who wrote and taught at the University of California. In time, the criticisms became part of a general attack on Junipero Serra in particular and the Catholic Church in general.

In the four concluding articles Father Guest has taken up the various accusations of the deconstructionists and has searched the records to see whether they are true or false. …

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