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A list of key readings about California.
Please sort and annotate in a user-friendly manner. For formatting, consider using automated reference wikification.



  • Bakken, Gordon Morris. California History: A Topical Approach (2003), college textbook
  • Hubert Howe Bancroft. The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, vol 18-24, History of California to 1890; complete text online; famous, highly detailed narrative
  • Cherny, Robert W., Richard Griswold del Castillo, and Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo. Competing Visions: A History Of California (2005), college textbook
  • Cleland, Robert Glass. A History of California: The American Period (1922) 512pp online edition
  • Hittell, Theodore Henry. History of California (4 vol 1898) old. detailed narrative; online edition
  • Lavender, David. California: A History. (Some libraries catalog it as California: A Bicentennial History.) States and the Nation series. New York: Norton, 1976. Short and popular
  • Rawls, James J. ed. New Directions In California History: A Book of Readings (1988)
  • Rawls, James and Walton Bean. California: An Interpretive History (8th ed 2003), college textbook
  • Rice, Richard B., William A. Bullough, and Richard J. Orsi. Elusive Eden: A New History of California 3rd ed (2001), college textbook
  • Rolle, Andrew F. California: A History 6th ed. (2003), college textbook
  • Sucheng, Chan , and Spencer C. Olin, eds. Major Problems in California History (1996), readings in primary and secondary sources
  • Starr, Kevin. (Note that there are numerous editions of this monumental state history, with slight title changes) This is the great state history, with rich narrative and analysis

Environment, agriculture, water

  • Carle, David. Introduction to Water in California. U. of California Press, 2004. 261 pp.
  • Deverell, William and Hise, Greg, eds. Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles. U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. 350 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Godfrey, Anthony. The Ever-Changing View: A History of the National Forests in California. US Forest Service, 2005. 657 pp.
  • Griggs, Gary; Patsch, Kiki; and Savoy, Lauret, eds. Living with the Changing California Coast. U. of California Press, 2005. 540 pp.
  • Hundley Jr., Norris. The Great Thirst: Californians and Water-A History (2nd ed 2001) excerpt and text search
  • Isenberg, Andrew C. Mining California: An Ecological History. Hill & Wang, 2005. 242 pp.
  • Jelinek, Lawrence. Harvest Empire: A History of California Agriculture (1982) (ISBN 0-87835-131-0)
  • Merchant, Carolyn ed. Green Versus Gold: Sources In California's Environmental History (1998) readings in primary and secondary sources excerpt and text search
  • Pincetl, Stephanie S. Transforming California: A Political History of Land Use and Development (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Righter, Robert W. The Battle over Hetch Hetchy: America's Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism. Oxford U. Press, 2005. 303 pp.
  • Sackman, Douglas Cazaux. Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden. U. of California Press, 2005. 386 pp.
  • Street, Richard Steven. Beasts of the Field: A Narrative History of California Farmworkers, 1769-1913. Stanford U. Press, 2004. 904 pp.

Ethnicity, gender

  • Abelmann, Nancy, and John Lie. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots (1995) online edition
  • Camarillo, Albert. Chicanos in a Changing Society: From Mexican Pueblos to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern California, 1848-1930. (1979) 336 pp.
  • Camarillo, Albert. Chicanos in California: A history of Mexican Americans in California (1984) 139pp, for middle schools.
  • Camarillo, Albert M., “Cities of Color: The New Racial Frontier in California’s Minority-Majority Cities,” Pacific Historical Review, 76 (Feb. 2007), 1–28.
  • Espiritu, Yen Le. Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries. U. of California Press, 2003. 271 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Hayes-Bautista, David E. La Nueva California: Latinos in the Golden State. U. of California Press, 2004. 263 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Kahn, Ava F. and Dollinger, Marc, eds. California Jews. U. Press of New England, 2003. 196 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Matsumoto, Valerie J. Farming the Home Place: A Japanese American Community in California, 1919-1982 (1994) excerpt and text search
  • Matthews, Glenna. Silicon Valley, Women, and the California Dream: Gender, Class, and Opportunity in the Twentieth Century. Stanford U. Press, 2003. 313 pp.
  • Pitt, Leonard. The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846-1890 (1966, 1999) online excerpt and search
  • Pitti, Stephen J. The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican Americans (2003) 320pp; online excerpt and search
  • Saxton, Alexander. The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (1971) online excerpt and search
  • Sides, Josh. L.A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present. U. of California Press, 2003. 288 pp. online excerpts and search
  • Swiontek, Danielle Jean. With Ballots and Pocketbooks: Women, Labor, and Reform in Progressive California (2006)

Gold rush

  • Brands, H.W. The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Burns, John F. and Richard J. Orsi, eds; Taming the Elephant: Politics, Government, and Law in Pioneer California U of California Press, 2003 online edition
  • Starr, Kevin and Richard J. Orsi eds. Rooted in Barbarous Soil: People, Culture, and Community in Gold Rush California (2001)

Politics and economics

  • Boyarsky, Bill, Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh and the Art of Power Politics, (2007); powerful speaker of the Assembly (1961-1969), defeated for governor in 1970 by Ronald Reagan; state treasurer from 1975 until his death in 1987.
  • Cannon, Lou. Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power Public Affairs. (2003) detailed biography online excerpts
  • Dallek, Matthew. The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan's First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics. (2004). Study of 1966 election as governor. online excerpts and search
  • Deverell, William. Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad, 1850-1910, (1994) complete text online free in California
  • Erie, Steven P. Globalizing L.A.: Trade, Infrastructure, and Regional Development. Stanford U. Press, 2004. 310 pp. blurb
  • Giventer, Lawrence. Governing California (2003), short textbook; excerpt and texts search
  • Lotchin, Roger W. Fortress California, 1910-1961 (2002) excerpt and online search
  • McAfee, Ward. California's Railroad Era, 1850-1911 (1973)
  • Miller, Sally M., and Daniel A. Cornford eds. American Labor in the Era of World War II (1995)] essays by scholars, mostly on California online edition
  • Mowry, George E. The California Progressives (1963), early 20th century
  • Olin, Spencer. California Politics, 1846-1920 (1981)
  • Orsi, Richard J. Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930. U. of California Press, 2005. 615 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Putnam, Jackson K. Jess: The Political Career of Jesse Marvin Unruh. U. Press of America, 2005. 462 pp.
  • Rarick, Ethan. California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown. U. of California Press, 2005. 501 pp.
  • Richardson, James. Willie Brown: A Biography, U of California Press, (1996) complete text online free
  • Sabin, Paul. Crude Politics: The California Oil Market, 1900-1940. U. of California Press, 2005. 307 pp.
  • Schrag, Peter. Paradise Lost: California's Experience, America's Future. 3d ed. (original publ. 1998). Berkeley: U. of California Press, 2004. 370 pp.
  • Schrag, Peter. California: America's High-Stakes Experiment (2006) excerpts and online search
  • Tutorow, Norman E. The Governor: The Life and Legacy of Leland Stanford, a California Colossus. Clark, 2004. 2 vol. 1146 pp.
  • Williams, R. Hal. The Democratic Party and California Politics, 1880-1896 (1973)

Pre 1846

  • Hurtado, Albert L. John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier. U. of Oklahoma Press, 2006. 412 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Jackson, Robert H. Missions and the Frontiers of Spanish America: A Comparative Study of the Impact of Environmental, Economic, Political, and Socio-Cultural Variations on the Missions in the Rio de la Plata Region and on the Northern Frontier of New Spain. Scottsdale, Ariz.: Pentacle, 2005. 592 pp.
  • Lightfoot, Kent G. Indians, Missionaries, and Merchants: The Legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers. U. of California Press, 1980. 355 pp. excerpt and online search


  • Davis, Mike, Kelly Mayhew and Jim Miller. Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See. New York: New Press, 2003.
  • Deverell, William and Hise, Greg, eds. Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles. U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. 350 pp. excerpt and online search
  • Erie, Steven P. Globalizing L.A.: Trade, Infrastructure, and Regional Development. Stanford U. Press, 2004. 310 pp. blurb
  • Fogelson, Robert M. The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 (1993) complete text online free in California
  • García, Matt. A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970 (2001),
  • Halle, David, ed. New York and Los Angeles: Politics, Society, and Culture. A Comparative View. U. of Chicago Press, 2003. 558 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Lécuyer, Christophe. Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970. M.I.T. Press, 2006. 393 pp.
  • Pitt, Leonard, and Dale Pitt. Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County (2000) excerpt and text search
  • Pryde, Philip R. San Diego: An Introduction to the Region (2004)
  • Scott, Allen J. On Hollywood: The Place, the Industry. Princeton U. Press, 2005. 200 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Sitton, Tom and William F, Deverell, eds. Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Valle, Victor M. and Torres, Rodolfo D. Latino Metropolis. 2000. 249 pp. on Los Angeles