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Herbert Eugene Bolton

Herbert Eugene Bolton: Historian of the American Borderlands

Albert L. Hurtado
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 388
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  • Book Info
    Herbert Eugene Bolton
    Book Description:

    This definitive biography offers a new critical assessment of the life, works, and ideas of Herbert E. Bolton (1870–1953), a leading historian of the American West, Mexico, and Latin America. Bolton, a famous pupil of Frederick Jackson Turner, formulated a concept—the borderlands—that is a foundation of historical studies today. His research took him not only to the archives and libraries of Mexico but out on the trails blazed by Spanish soldiers and missionaries during the colonial era. Bolton helped establish the reputation of the University of California and the Bancroft Library in the eyes of the world and was influential among historians during his lifetime, but interest in his ideas waned after his death. Now, more than a century after Bolton began to investigate the Mexican archives, Albert L. Hurtado explores his life against the backdrop of the cultural and political controversies of his day.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95251-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: The Border Lord
    (pp. 1-4)

    On one of his southwestern expeditions Herbert Bolton clambered atop an Anasazi ruin tucked into a canyon wall. From there he surveyed his domain like a conquistador viewing his latest conquest. The pose suited him. Bolton was the undisputed master of a scholarly domain that he had pioneered and conquered. It is a memorable image of bolton at the height of his powers. Of course, the snapshot did not capture a true conqueror, but a historian doing field research for one of his books. Yet the pose reveals the aspect of bolton’s work that today’s historians find most objectionable—his...

  7. ONE The Scholars’ Hard Road
    (pp. 5-20)

    In late December 1922 Herbert Eugene Bolton boarded an eastbound train at the Berkeley station and settled into his seat. Even in repose Bolton was a striking figure. At fifty-two years old, he was six feet tall with neatly trimmed sandy hair that was still full. Smiles broke easily upon his open face. He wore glasses over large blue, attentive eyes, and chain-smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes, but still looked fit in middle age. Bolton was chairman of the history department at the University of California, director of the Bancroft Library, and one of the most important historians of his day....

  8. TWO A Gathering at Lake Mendota
    (pp. 21-38)

    The University of Wisconsin was less than fifty years old when Herbert Bolton arrived in 1893. The student body of nearly three thousand was small by today’s standards, but it had grown rapidly from only five hundred in 1887. Located on College Hill along the shores of lake Mendota, the university’s environs were nothing if not scenic, but its political geography was as important as its physical location. Madison is the state capital, and the state house is within walking distance. Politicos had only to cast their eyes westward to see the fruits of the state’s investment in higher education....

  9. THREE Gone to Texas
    (pp. 39-57)

    Life in Milwaukee was good, but despite Herbert’s happiness in being with Fred, the reality of normal school teaching soon set in. Herbert’s teaching load was heavy: four classes in three subjects, while more favored faculty taught only three classes in two subjects.¹ This was a matter of preferential treatment rather than merit, Herbert believed. He had little control over what he taught. “He had to teach what was handed to him at the opening of each term,” Fred explained; “mathematics, economics, ancient history, etc.” Herbert was rarely permitted to teach U.S. history in Milwaukee. He taught in a...

  10. FOUR Many Roads to California
    (pp. 58-78)

    While bolton negotiated the terms of his work in Mexico, Frederick Jackson Turner was engaged in high-level professional discussions of his own. From 1904 until 1909 Stanford University and the University of California avidly competed for Turner’s services. bolton would be the ultimate beneficiary of turner’s long courtships on the Pacific Coast.

    In 1902 Turner had called Max Farrand to Madison to teach a summer seminar in American constitutional history, “to the delight” of the students, Turner noted. “I am finding him a most companionable friend,” he explained to Professor Henry Morse Stephens. Farrand was head of the history department...

  11. FIVE In Stephens’s Grove
    (pp. 79-95)

    Like other institutions of higher learning in Bolton’s time, the University of California existed as a complex web of interlocking political, social, cultural, and economic relationships. We may imagine those connections as a series of intersecting rings, much like the circles used to illustrate set theory in mathematics. A large circle represents the university. A cluster of smaller circles signifies a collection of departments assembled to form a college within the university circle. A large circle that intersects with the university circle represents the Board of Regents, which consisted of influential men and women of wealth. Likewise the governor and...

  12. SIX Foundations of Empire
    (pp. 96-111)

    In late 1913 the boltons’ seventh and last child was born, the only boy. “His only handicap seems to be that they have given him my name,” he informed Fred. “I wanted to give him yours, but the matter lay rather outside of my jurisdiction.”¹ Now with children who ranged in age from infancy to sixteen years old, the Bolton home must have been a bustling habitation. the demands on gertrude were especially great. bolton’s letters to his brother sometimes mentioned her ill health and general weakness.² The strain of bearing seven children, the last one born when she was...

  13. SEVEN Teachers and Students—Worlds Apart
    (pp. 112-128)

    When Bolton took over the Berkeley history department, he was in the midst of a period of writing that began withAthanase de Mézièresin 1914 and culminated in the publication ofThe Spanish Borderlandsin 1921. During this highly productive time bolton solidified his position as the preeminent historian in his field while developing hemispheric history as an undergraduate course that extended his thinking about borderlands and American history. He did these things amidst the multitasking environment of the department, the Bancroft Library, the university, and graduate mentorship.

    “There was but one Stephens and no one can ever fill...

  14. EIGHT Of Presidents and Politics
    (pp. 129-143)

    The presidency of the American Historical Association symbolized the pinnacle of professional achievement to which Bolton aspired. By 1922 five of bolton’s teachers and patrons had been elected to that high office: McMaster (1905), Jameson (1907), Turner (1910), Stephens (1915), and Haskins (1922). If Stephens could reach the pinnacle from berkeley, why not Bolton? there were signs that the AHA leadership thought he might be made of presidential timber. two months after publishing his mission article in theReview,bolton was elected to a three-year term on the AHA Council.¹

    The nominating committee controlled elective offices in the AHA. each...

  15. NINE Race, Place, and Heroes
    (pp. 144-158)

    Bolton’s decision to stay in California did not mean that he had escaped the vicissitudes of local patriotism and widely held prejudices concerning race, religion, politics, and history. He did not record his personal beliefs about religion, but his scholarly work on Catholic missions had moved him away from anti-Catholic prejudice to an uncritical admiration for pioneer priests and the Church that they served. Bolton’s ideas about other religious and racial groups are more difficult to track, because he carefully avoided making controversial statements that might reflect adversely on the university.

    Bolton employed a simple tactic when discussing subjects that...

  16. Figures
    (pp. None)
  17. TEN Exploration, Empire, and Patrimony
    (pp. 159-174)

    Bolton wanted to know the ground that his Spanish explorers had covered. His keen interest in mapping and historical geography was apparent as soon as he arrived in the Southwest. For the rest of his life bolton either would be on the trail in search of Spanish explorers or planning a new expedition. He loved these trips more than anything else he did.

    Personal examination of the trails of Coronado, Kino, Anza, and Escalante was as important to Bolton as minute examination of their manuscripts. Bolton conducted his trail research in roadless, rugged, desert terrain that stretched for many hundreds...

  18. ELEVEN The Grand Patriarch
    (pp. 175-191)

    The 1930s were challenging years for the University of California. In July 1930 robert Gordon Sproul became president of the university. No one was surprised. As university vice president and secretary of the regents, Sproul was in effect the “operational president” from 1920 on, according to Clark kerr, Sproul’s successor.¹ Bolton, of course, knew Sproul well and worked closely with him. Sproul assumed the presidency during the Great Depression, a time when his legendary attention to budgetary detail was most needed.

    Hard times for the country meant hard times for the university. Yet there was a glimmer of hope. In...

  19. TWELVE Bury My Heart at Corte Madera
    (pp. 192-209)

    Bolton took great pride in discovering long-lost historical sites and documents, but high-profile announcements of newly revealed historical treasures entailed an element of risk. An error could damage Bolton’s hard-won reputation. There was little chance of his making a mistake with Spanish colonial writings. He knew the geography, environment, and mission architecture of the Southwest as well as anyone in the world, so it was unlikely that he would go wrong there. But Bolton was willing to make pronouncements about matters that were on the margins of his well-established, internationally recognized scholarly competence.

    In the mid-1930s Bolton’s part in the...

  20. THIRTEEN Western Revolt and Retirement
    (pp. 210-223)

    While bolton fought to vindicate the Drake plate, the professional world of history stirred with new developments. J. Franklin Jameson, who should justly be regarded as one of Bolton’s chief professional benefactors, died in 1937. Charles Haskins, Bolton’s favorite teacher at Wisconsin, also passed away that year. But the deaths of the last of the Old Guard were not the most salient changes shaking the professional foundations of history in the 1930s. The new generation of historians who replaced Jameson, Turner, and Haskins were making their presence felt, while professors from western institutions were bringing regional matters to the forefront...

  21. FOURTEEN Defending the Empire
    (pp. 224-239)

    Like King Lear, Bolton imagined a retirement that would be as full of honor and accomplishment as his life had been when he undisputedly ruled his empire. He also expected his successors to administer his realm much as he would have done. His old friend and fellow Penn alumnus, Paxson, would head the department. Priestley would guide the Bancroft Library, while Chapman, Kinnaird, and Sluiter would carry on the Boltonian tradition of the Americas and borderlands history. Bolton believed that these men would defend the empire that he had built.

    It all began well. In February 1940 bolton learned that...

  22. FIFTEEN The Fading Pageant
    (pp. 240-251)

    Bolton retired permanently in March 1944. His student and biographer John Francis Bannon believed that Bolton’s return to the lecture hall had been an invigorating tonic.¹ Perhaps, but it had also taken two precious years from the active retirement that bolton had wished to fill with exploring and writing. Such time could never be reclaimed. While Bolton maintained that enthusiasm was the essential ingredient in successful teaching, his own performance may have become a bit stale.² One student recalled that his wartime classes were filled with bored GIs who dozed in their seats. That many of them were awaiting overseas...

  23. SIXTEEN The Emperor Departs
    (pp. 252-264)

    Bolton’s world was changing. He was still a revered figure on campus but no longer had the clout that he had possessed before he retired. The university itself had been transformed by the war and its aftermath. Bolton’s students taught his old courses, but the Bolton school was no longer the undeniable center of gravity in the history department. All these changes were plainly evident to the elderly gentleman who daily lunched at the history department’s table in the Faculty Club.

    More changes were on the way. In the spring of 1949 the University of California Board of Regents passed...

  24. Afterword: The Debatable Legacy
    (pp. 265-270)

    In 1994 I gave a lecture at the Huntington Library about Bolton as a cultural mediator. Afterward, Wilbur Jacobs and I sat on the patio outside the snack bar. A prominent Turner and Parkman scholar, Wilbur was also one of the key academic figures in the establishment in the 1970s of the field of Native American history. Not incidentally, he had chaired my doctoral committee at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He regarded bolton as an apologist for the Catholic missions, which had caused terrible damage to Indians. I tried to explain that bolton’s racial and ethnic views were...

    (pp. 271-272)
  26. NOTES
    (pp. 273-312)
    (pp. 313-344)
  28. INDEX
    (pp. 345-370)
  29. Back Matter
    (pp. 371-371)