Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Contested Eden

Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush, Published in Association with the California Historical Society

RAMÓN A. GUTIÉRREZ
RICHARD J. ORSI
Illustrations Editor ANTHONY KIRK
Associate Editor MARLENE SMITH-BARANZINI
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: 1
Pages: 395
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp01m
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Contested Eden
    Book Description:

    Celebrating the 150th birthday of the state of California offers the opportunity to reexamine the founding of modern California, from the earliest days through the Gold Rush and up to 1870. In this four-volume series, published in association with the California Historical Society, leading scholars offer a contemporary perspective on such issues as the evolution of a distinctive California culture, the interaction between people and the natural environment, the ways in which California's development affected the United States and the world, and the legacy of cultural and ethnic diversity in the state.California before the Gold Rush, the first California Sesquicentennial volume, combines topics of interest to scholars and general readers alike. The essays investigate traditional historical subjects and also explore such areas as environmental science, women's history, and Indian history. Authored by distinguished scholars in their respective fields, each essay contains excellent summary bibliographies of leading works on pertinent topics. This volume also features an extraordinary full-color photographic essay on the artistic record of the conquest of California by Europeans, as well as over seventy black-and-white photographs, some never before published.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92055-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. LIST OF MAPS
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael McCone and Richard J. Orsi
  5. 1 Contested Eden: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)
    Ramón A. Gutiérrez

    History, as the study of change over time, always requires that we stop periodically to take stock. Whether we measure by years, decades, or centuries, by regions, cohorts, or generations, the goal is identical: to assess what has transpired and what still remains to be done. California became part of the United States of America a century and a half ago. On the event of the state’s sesquicentennial we commemorate our genealogies and complex pasts, acknowledging the debts of knowledge and interpretation we owe to previous generations, fashioning our present with distinct questions and concerns, charting a course toward a...

  6. 2 A World of Balance and Plenty: Land, Plants, Animals, and Humans in a Pre-European California
    (pp. 12-47)
    M. Kat Anderson, Michael G. Barbour and Valerie Whitworth

    California has environmental diversity and richness unparalleled anywhere in the world. The state’s geographic undulations encompass the lowest and the highest points in the conterminous United States. Spanning more than ten degrees of latitude and extending over one hundred million acres, California is a bridge between cool-temperate, foggy, dimly lit rainforests and open, parched, hot, sun-bathed subtropical deserts. This astounding array of California vegetation exists in close juxtaposition, spilling and swirling in patterns created by elevation, climate, soil, and bedrock.

    From a distance—as from a jet aircraft flying over the state at great elevation and speed—California’s vegetation cover...

  7. 3 Indian Peoples of California
    (pp. 48-77)
    William S. Simmons

    This chapter provides a glimpse of certain key aspects of California Indian life shortly before and after the beginning of European colonization. Although it includes the entire area encompassed by the present-day state of California, the focus primarily is on the peoples who inhabited the north and south Coast Ranges, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river valleys, and the western Sierra. In selecting and depicting the topics to be emphasized, I have tried to present a balance between a comparative approach that suggests the great diversity of native California peoples, certain shared characteristics of their cultures, and specific details of...

  8. 4 Seekers of the “Northern Mystery”: European Exploration of California and the Pacific
    (pp. 78-110)
    Iris H. W. Engstrand

    The history of exploration into the Pacific during the sixteenth century is open for continued investigation. Because the early documentation for this subject is approaching five centuries in age and is often difficult to decipher, few researchers have undertaken the task. The Columbus Quincentenary observances brought about significant gains in the details of the Columbian exchange, but these investigations were mainly concentrated in the Atlantic and Caribbean worlds. Although the first European forays into the Pacific took place with Magellan’s epic voyage between 1519 and 1522, a similar concentration of scholarly effort in that area has yet to be realized....

  9. 5 Land, Labor, and Production: The Colonial Economy of Spanish and Mexican California
    (pp. 111-146)
    Steven W. Hackel

    As the sesquicentennial of California’s admission to the Union approaches, California can boast of one of the most productive economies the world has ever seen: the Golden State annually produces more goods and services than all but a handful of the world’s nations. But during the Spanish colonial period (1769-1821) and the Mexican national period (1822-1846), contemporaries lamented the lack of economic growth in Alta California. In 1796, the Franciscan missionary José Señán dismissed the region’s settlers as lazy and unproductive, claiming that they preferred playing cards to plowing fields. Señán attributed most of their idleness to Spanish policies: the...

  10. 6 “The Child of the Wilderness Weeps for the Father of Our Country”: The Indian and the Politics of Church and State in Provincial California
    (pp. 147-172)
    Michael J. González

    From the Spanish era (1769-1821) into the Mexican period (1822-1846), Franciscan missionaries vied with provincial governors and their subordinates to rule Indians. The Spanish Crown, and later independent Mexico, expected each group to help convert the Native Californians into tax-paying Catholics, but the rivals debated who would supervise the transformation. The clamor attracted many participants. Priests from other orders, foreign visitors, American emigres, and military men—indeed military men often doubled as governors—likewise wondered what kind of regimen to impose on the Indians. These outsiders, however, rarely contributed new ideas and left the conflict to the devices of the...

  11. 7 The Creation and Re-creation of Californio Society
    (pp. 173-195)
    Douglas Monroy

    The Californios occupied center stage of California history for only a short while. They were a people who began utterly inauspiciously, forged themselves places on the landscape as owners of great landed estates, and created a singular identity for themselves out of their relationships to priests, Indians, lower-class immigrants, Americans, Mexico, and cows and horses. Then, simultaneously, they faded into physical obscurity in the political economy of California, and, after the Americans conquered their country and tides of gold rushes overwhelmed their number and their land, they participated in their mythical re-creation as gracious masters of a lost pastoral paradise....

  12. 8 Between Crucifix and Lance: Indian-White Relations in California, 1769–1848
    (pp. 196-229)
    James A. Sandos

    ¡Basta ya!(Enough!) This “new” western history began to irritate Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo the more he read. Working in his study atLachryma Montis(tear of the mountain), the two-story, Victorian “Boston House” located outside the plaza of Sonoma, which he had laid out, Vallejo, like a modern reviewer, read carefully the historical text before him, evaluating it in light of his own expertise. Unlike a modern reviewer, however, Mariano had played a prominent role in some of the past recounted in George Tinkham’sA History of Stockton(1880), and Vallejo knew firsthand many of the people and incidents described....

  13. 9 Engendering the History of Alta California, 1769–1848: Gender, Sexuality and the Family
    (pp. 230-259)
    Antonia I. Castañeda

    From 1769, when the firstentrada(incursion) of soldiers and priests arrived in California to extend Spanish colonial hegemony to the farthest reaches of the northern frontier, women and girls were the target of sexual violence and brutal attacks. In the San Gabriel region, for example, soldiers on horseback swooped into villages, chased, lassoed, raped, beat, and sometimes killed women.² As had occurred in successive incursions into new territory since the fifteenth century, sexual aggression against native women was among the first recorded acts of Spanish colonial domination in Alta California. This political violence effected on the bodies of women...

  14. 10 Serpent in the Garden: Environmental Change in Colonial California
    (pp. 260-298)
    William Preston

    The colonial processes initiated by the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1492 would inevitably and irrevocably spread throughout the Western Hemisphere and severely disrupt native peoples and their habitats. California’s frontiers were eventually reached and breached by these alien forces that arrived in the form of European peoples and the organisms that accompanied, and often preceded, them. California’s relative isolation and its physical geography proved insufficient as protection against these disruptive colonial invaders. Nevertheless, California’s remote position and unique physical and cultural geography would greatly influence the timing, nature, and severity of the foreign onslaught. California—because of its distance...

  15. 11 Alta California’s Trojan Horse: Foreign Immigration
    (pp. 299-330)
    Doyce B. Nunis Jr.

    In 1769, Spain undertook its last colonial initiative in the New World: the occupation of Alta California. Coincidental with the implementation of this final colonization endeavor was the growing rumble of discontent among English settlers along the eastern Atlantic seaboard of the continent. On the one hand, imperial Spain was extending its domain northward along the Pacific Coast, while colonial Americans were chaffing under British rule. The latter tension by 1776 would lead to the creation of a new nation, the United States; the coastal expanse coveted by Spain would eventually become the thirty-first state in that Union.

    In establishing...

  16. 12 War in California, 1846–1848
    (pp. 331-356)
    Lisbeth Haas

    The most recent and thorough account of the Mexican-American War in California has been written by Neil Harlow in his bookCalifornia Conquered, published in 1982. Harlow provides the background to war and carries the story of American conquest through 1850, when California was admitted to the Union. Harlow’s book offers the first complete story of the war since Hubert Bancroft’s large and substantive history was published in 1886.¹ Like Bancroft, Harlow relies on a wealth of primary sources. Though Harlow focuses his story around the American military leaders who led the conquest of the territory, he also discusses the...

  17. Picturing California
    (pp. 357-374)
    Anthony Kirk

    The images of early California that illuminate the pages of this volume are a wellspring of information and delight. Encompassing the widest range of artistic expression—from mysterious and fiercely beautiful pictographs to lyrical and wondrously evocative nineteenth-century landscape views—they enlarge our understanding of a long-lost world, vividly illustrating the firsthand observations of early explorers as well as the scholarly studies of modern historians. Speaking to us across the ages, the pictures tell of a world once fresh and new on the far western reaches of the American continent, of the rhythms of life played out by vital and...

  18. Contributors
    (pp. 375-378)
  19. Index
    (pp. 379-396)