Reading List

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28 October 2009

    Our Board of Directors asked the Heritage Preservation  Committee to develop a recommended reading list, no longer than both  sides of a sheet of paper.  Its purpose is threefold:  a general reading list  for our members who wish to improve their knowledge of  our history,  a  source sheet for teachers to learn more  about  pre-American California, and finally references for those who  would like  to locate resources to refute inaccurate  statements  they encounter.
    This  is a work in progress.  We read a number of books  to  make our selections, but each year new books appear that may be better than  those listed.  Likewise there may be better books of which we  were not aware.  You may send your comments and questions  to


by Maurice L. “Duke” Bandy and Marcy Bandy


 Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewitz. Lands of Promise and Despair. Heyday Books, 2001.$23.
    A compilation of excerpts of letters, reports and reminiscences about California. Each entry has an introduction by the editors. Some of their comments are more critical of the Hispanics than we find substantiated by the record. Not an easy read, but fairly complete coverage of the entire time period. It stands alone, and if only one book is read, this should be it. 


1. Harry W. Crosby, Antigua California. University of New Mexico Press, 1994. reprint $57.
    A readable and complete history of Baja California from the first Spanish settlement to 1768. Contains brief biographies of many of the Hispanics there, who became ancestors of later Alta California soldiers and settlers. Considered the preeminent authority on Baja California.

2. Donald Garate, Juan Bautista de Anza. University of Nevada Press, 2003. $34.
    A biography of the father of the Juan Bautista de Anza, who led the 1775 expedition to found San Francisco. It gives a broad view of Spanish activities leading up to the Portolá expedition of 1769. 

3. Harry W. Crosby, Gateway to Alta California. Sunbelt Publications, 2003. $37
    A very readable day-by-day account of the first land party of the 1769 expedition, led by Rivera. Profusely illustrated, with highly detailed topographical maps of the route from Velicatá to San Diego. Short biographies of soldiers of the land parties.


1. Thomas E. Chávez, Spain and the Independence of the United States. University of New Mexico Press, 2004.$20. 
    What was going on in the world at the time of the founding of the Presidios and first missions. Should be of great assistance to teachers trying to make California and Spain relevant to students whose roots are Mexico or the East Coast. A lengthy book in very small print makes it less suitable for casual reading.

2. Robert Hoover, “Another view of the California Missions.” Article in Los Californianos’ Noticias, April 2005. $1.50. Also available on our Web site, Dr. Robert Hoover [click on link].
    Written as a response to a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed article badmouthing the missions, Spanish soldiers and priests. A general refutation of the oft repeated allegations that the Missions were slave labor camps and the soldiers raped the Indian women and brutalized the men.

3. Jack S. Williams, "Review of Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo, 'Indians, Franciscans and Spanish Colonization H-Net,'" October 1995. Available on line at
Another lengthier article on the same topic refuting the allegations of gross abuse and enslavement of the Indian neophytes.

 4. David Weber, The Spanish Borderlands of North America, a Historiography. Organization of American Historians Magazine of History, Summer 2000. Available on line at
    An excellent quick review of our history with comments on why it has been underrepresented or misinterpreted. Some very dubious sources are quoted, so must be used with care.

 5. Barbara Linse, Live Again Our Mission Past. Arts’ Publications, 1983. original price $20, available on net $4.
   Sasha Honig reviewed this book for California Mission Studies Assn. most favorably. “This edition, which is bi-lingual, is approved by the California State Dept. of Education and would be a fine addition to any fourth [grade] teacher’s personal/professional library. It is chock-full of ideas. “ We also found this book charming and can be used by parents and/or grandparents at home. There are a few comments that I wish were not there and a few errors or misinformation. However these do not make a serious effect on  the story told. One caution is necessary. On page 141, a corn nut mush is made without the week long rinsing in running water as done by the Indians. The result will be unpalatable at least, if not actually upsetting to the digestion.


1. Antonio Maria Osio, (translated by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz), The History of Alta California. University of Wisconsin Press, 1996. $24.35 (paperback), also available hardback and used.
   Most probably the first history of California, this was written in 1851 in the form of a letter, as Osio did not feel qualified to write a book as requested. His manuscript did not fall into the hands of Bancroft or other Anglos, who might have edited it to change its emphasis. It is sometimes rambling; nonetheless, it is one of the very few accounts strictly from the Californio view.

 2. David J. Langum, Law and Community on the Mexican California Frontier. University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.out of print.
This long out-of-print book has been reissued by Los Californianos as Antepasados XIII. For ordering information, click the following link: Publications
    A good study of Mexican law at that time and the response of the Anglo-American immigrants. Includes specific cases with names.

 3.Charles B. Churchill, Adventurers and Prophets: American Autobiographers in Mexican California, 1829-1847. Arthur H. Clarke Co., 1995. $30
    A good and readable book about the impressions and actions of the American and other non-Hispanics coming into California during the years leading up to the Mexican American War and the years thereafter. Thus a foreshadow of what was to come and why. Combined with Langum above, it helps us maintain our balance of outlook.

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