I have a confession. My knowledge of California history is fairly miniscule. So to avoid making stupid mistakes in this blog, I thought I better cram with a good one-volume history of the Golden State. And who better to turn to than Kevin Starr, former State Librarian, current USC Professor and one of the most eminent of California's historians?
Starr has penned seven authoritative books chronicling the state's story, starting with Americans and the California Dream and ending with Golden Dreams: California in the Age of Abundance. Fortunately for us, he condensed his vast scholarship into a very readable and insightful single volume.
Although California: a History covers a lot of ground (prehistory to the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger) and mentions dozens (if not hundreds) of names, places and events, a coherent picture of the state emerges out of some elegant writing. Starr's book is balanced, recounting both the triumphs and tragedies, accomplishments and mistakes, the best and the worst that characterizes the California experience. He goes beyond the usual military conquests and political developments to describe the profound contributions of explorers, missionaries, businessmen, scientists, engineers, writers, architects, painters, film makers, labor leaders and environmentalists, who gave so much to the state -- and to the world.
California: a History is a great read and worth a look. But I'm sure there are other vauable sources for the novice (books, journals, films, etc.). Share your suggestions in the comments below.
PHOTO CREDIT: Former state librarian Kevin Starr is congratulated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during the annual California Hall of Fame ceremony, Dec. 2010. Sacramento Bee photo by Hector Amezcua.