In the category of oldies -- but goodies, we're lucky to have online access to seven informative and enjoyable lectures on California history recorded at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library in 2002 and 2003.
Produced in conjunction with KQED radio, these presentations were given by three well-known experts in the field: J.S. Holliday, one of the most eminent of the state's historians and author of The World Rushed In, a celebrated study of the Gold Rush; James J. Rawls, history instructor at Diablo Valley College and author of the widely used textbook California: An Interpretive History; and Robert H. Hirst, General Editor and Curator of the Mark Twain Papers & Project.
The lectures range in time and topic, but taken together, they're a terrific addition to one's education in Golden State history:
* The California Mission as Symbol and Myth (Rawls). Changing public perception of the Spanish Missions through the decades.
* Like America Only More So: The Origins and Power of California's Image (Holliday). The free-for-all Gold Rush set the stage for the entrepreneurial spirit that characterized the state in later years.
* Heaven on the Half-shell: Mark Twain in California (Hirst). Clemens' time in the state was brief, but important in his development as a writer.
* California's Greatest Thirst: A Glance at the Contentious History of California's Water (Rawls). Good summary of the development of massive water systems that allowed the growth of California's cities and agriculture.
* An Entrepreneurial Genius: Henry J. Kaiser (Holliday). A vivid portrait of the industrialist who built huge bridges, dams and revolutionized health care.
* Kick out the Southern Pacific (Rawls). A look at the Progressives who took on the entrenched power of the railroads.
* A Library for California (Holliday). The development of the Bancroft Library from its beginnings as a private collection to becoming the foremost resource for the study of Califoria and Western United States history.
PHOTO CREDIT: Prospectors dig for gold at Auburn Ravine in 1852. Photo courtesy of the California State Library.