California History

Course Description

Through an historical and literary approach, this course examines the interaction of the hopes and dreams of the peoples of California from the arrival of the first peoples to the post-World War II boom. May involve work in oral history.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will demonstrate, through objective tests and essays, their ability to:

  • Explain the impact of California’s physical geography on its history.
  • Discuss the geography, economic activities, folklore and religion of California’s native peoples.
  • Explain the impact of Spanish exploration and colonization – especially the mission system – on the development of the agricultural economy of early California.
  • Describe Mexican rule in California and the causes and consequences for California of the war between Mexico and the United States.
  • Identify the cultural, social, political and economic effects of the discovery of gold in California, including its impact on native Californians and Mexican nationals.
  • Discuss conflicts over land, water and other resources as California’s population grew during the second half of the nineteenth century.
  • Highlight the key principles of the California Constitution – especially Progressive-era reforms such as initiative, referendum, and recall – and explain the differences between it and the United States Constitution.
  • Explain the reasons for and importance of Hollywood as the center of production of American popular consumer culture since the 1920s.
  • Describe the main patterns of immigration to California, including the influx of South-Westerners into California in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and their impact on the cultural, economic, social, and political development of the state.
  • Explain the Asian attraction to California, contrasting the experiences of Asian immigrants with other immigrants to the state.
  • Describe the effects of federal and state law on the legal status of immigrants.
  • Explain the development and location of California’s major economic activities: mining, large-scale agriculture, entertainment, recreation, aerospace, electronics, and international trade.
  • Illuminate historical and contemporary perspectives on cultural diversity and the ongoing divisions of class, race and gender in California’s diverse population.
  • Explain debates concerning the allocation of resources and environmental crises within the state and throughout the west, especially California’s water delivery system and its relationship to California’s geography and economy.


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School of Arts, Letters, and Sciences

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Jackson M., Class of 2021, Military Veteran
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