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California Gold Rush by Andrew Isenberg

Andrew C. Isenberg, The California Gold Rush: A Brief History with Documents (2018),    The following questions are not an assignment. Rather, they are to help you follow along and focus as you read. Understanding the Introduction will give you important context for the documents that follow, and eventually for your paper! This book will be the subject of your 6-page Analysis Paper.   You will be required to use a minimum number of the primary-source documents in the book (from among those I assign), in addition to drawing on the Introduction, the Foner textbook, and lectures. I am not providing study questions for the documents in Part Two. Each document is preceded by a helpful introductory “blurb. “Also read the introductory page in each section of documents. For instance, for part Two/Section 1 of documents (“Discovery”), the intro.is page 24. For Section 2, “Cities,” the intro. is p. 44. “Before the Gold Rush”    1. How does Isenberg describe the Native American way of life in California before the arrival of the Spanish –especially regarding subsistence and land use? How did the Spanish missions affect Native Americans? What were the purposes of the mission system, from the Spanish point of view?    2. How did Mexican rule (starting with independence from Spain in 1821) affect the mission system, and change landholding in California? (Who became major landowners now?)   3. What efforts did the U.S. make to acquire California (or parts thereof) from Mexico during the first half of the 19thcentury? How did the U.S. finally win California? “The Gold Rush”  4. How was the discovery of gold in Northern California in 1848 eventually broadcast to the nation and the world? What were the immediate effects for California?  5. Describe migrations of people to the Gold Rush, beginning in earnest in 1849. Where did people come from? What were the hazards of the trip (by land or by sea)? 6. How did early miners extract the gold? Why was placer mining (streambed or gravel mining) so labor-intensive?  7. How did CA (as a brand-new state) grapple with the issue of slaves coming into the state?   8. In what ways did miners –and later white settlers –get into conflict with Native Americans, Spanish-speaking miners, and Californios (Mexicans and others who were large-scale ranchers)?   9. Overall, why does Isenberg argue that “whiteness and property informed many Californians’ senses of legitimacy” (p. 15)? Give examples of racial and class violence in Gold Rush-era CA. “After the Gold Rush”  10. What are some of the ways that the Gold Rush was environmentally destructive? Overall, why did mining and other economic activities extract such high environmental costs in CA? (Hint: for answers to this, be sure you have first read this section.)  11. What was hydraulic mining, and why was it so devastating for the landscape? “The Gold Rush in Historical Memory”  12. According to Isenberg, how has the story of the Gold Rush been “romanticized and sanitized” by late 19th-century writers and since (p. 19)? Why should we understand it differently, and in a more complex way? Overview of the Introduction.  13. What do you think is the book’s overall thesis, or main argument? (Your answer may be more than one idea / one sentence.) As you begin to read the individual documents in Part Two, you may think about each might tie into–or illustrate –the author’s larger thesis / argument.

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