Reviewed by Gregg Hennessey
A Guide to the History of California.
Edited by Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., and Gloria Ricci Lothrop. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989. Appendices. Index. 309 pages. $65.00.
Since the discovery of gold in California the country has had a preoccupation with the state. From the first wealth seekers on, a ceaseless flow of travel accounts, diaries, letters, reports, commentaries, and histories have attested to and documented this national fascination. A Guide to the History of California is a major attempt to bring together the significant historical literature, both published and unpublished. The guide, while not exhaustive, explores the state’s voluminous historiography and rich documentary heritage in two sections. The editors describe the effort as an attempt “to provide a basic footing for research to novice and scholar alike.” (p. viii) In part one, the first five essays divide up the state’s political history from 1542 to the present. Five additional essays review Chicano, Black, Asian, urban and women’s history and are particularly welcome for demonstrating the importance and strength of these sub-fields and the significant new methodologies available to historians. Essays in part two detail the holdings in the state’s major archives and libraries, provide shorter listings for selected historical societies, and review the oral history resources throughout the state. Written by historians, archivists, and librarians, the essays are wide ranging and idiosyncratic. Researchers wishing to learn about historical materials and repositories in San Diego must used the guide with caution. The entry for the San Diego Historical Society Research Archives has incorrect days and hours listed plus misleading information about their strengths and important holdings. The same holds true for the San Diego Public Library. The essay on county records slights the Historical Society’s larger and more important collection in favor of the now closed Center for Regional History at San Diego State University. This guide will be a welcome tool for “novice and scholar alike” if used carefully, especially the essays in part two.