The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1974, Volume 20, Number 1

California: A History of Upper and Lower California From Their First Discovery to the Present Time. By Alexander Forbes. New York: Arno Press, 1973. Reprint. Illustrations. Map. 352 pages. $18.00.

As part of its Far Western Frontier Series, a collection of primary materials on the West edited by Ray Allen Billington, Arno Press has reprinted Alexander Forbes’ California. Published in London in 1839, this was the first book in English devoted entirely to the Californias. Forbes, a British merchant and vice consul at Tepic, prepared his manuscript without ever setting foot in Upper California. His work is most notable for its description of California’s economic and commercial situation, which Forbes learned about from experienced merchants and travelers, and because Forbes advocated that Mexico turn over California to British bondholders, to whom he estimated Mexico owed over fifty million dollars.

Like other outsiders who wrote on Hispanic California, Forbes foresaw that it would be easy for another power to seize the area. He predicted that the greatest threat came from the United States.

Arno Press’s reprint of this California classic lacks an index and a contemporary scholarly introduction, such as Herbert Priestley wrote for a 1937 edition. Yet, since earlier editions are scarce, this reprint is welcome, even if outrageously overpriced. DJW