Welcome! I’m excited to have you joining us for our California: Land of Movement course as part of the Huntington U series. You can use the links below to access the materials you need we move forward with our course, beginning with the syllabus and first readings. I look forward to meeting you soon. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me.

Preliminary Syllabus available here.

For Week 1: Please read the letters by Tamsen Donner (whose husband, George Donner, lent his name to the ill-fated expedition). These are a reasonably recent discovered Huntington treasure, providing a glimpse into who Tamsen was before (and early in) her journey to California. As you read them, consider what they suggest about who she was and how she viewed herself. Next, I’ve provided some brief excerpts from Sarah Royce’s account of her own journey, written years later for her son, the famed philosopher Josiah Royce.

Other Recommended Reading: Gabrielle Burton has done extensive research into Tamsen Donner and produced two books on the subject. Searching for Tamsen Donner combines the story of Burton’s research journey and of Donner’s original trek. Impatient with Desire is a a fictional version of Tamsen Donner’s lost journal, as imagined by Burton based on her research.


For Week 2: Please read the article on the 1871 Los Angeles Anti-Chinese Riot. As you do so, note the contributing causes (both immediate and general) of the riot, what we learn about the (changing) relationship between the Chinese and white communities in Los Angeles in this period, the especially the role/experience of women in this dynamic. Also, remember our plan to continue our discussion of westward migration with the letters of Tansen Donner. If you’ve printed those, please bring them with you again.

Other Recommended Reading: Mae Ngai is one of the foremost historians of immigration, especially to the West Coast. Her book Impossible Subjects is an excellent history of U.S. immigration law and race. Her new book, The Lucky Ones, traces the experiences of one family of nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants in the United States. As several class members recommended, The Warmth of Other Suns, is an accessible and highly-acclaimed account of the Great Migration of black Americans out of the South, including some discussion of the migration to Los Angeles.


For Week 3: Please read the article by Richard White on transcontinental railroads. White is (was?) best known for his work on encounters between Native Americans and colonial European powers in his prize-winning work, The Middle Ground. This piece came out a few years before White’s more recent Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America and offers a previous of sorts of his take in the larger work.

Other Recommended Reading: For our class discussion, I drew heavily on two key texts. First, Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century is an excellent study of the way in which railroad travel altered riders’ perceptions and how they responded to its new conditions. Second, Richard Orsi’s Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930 provides a sort of counter-argument to Richard White’s focus on the corruption of the “Associates” and other railroad barons. You may also be interested in the web-resources we referenced at the end of the class, from the Spacial History Project at Stanford, here and here.


For Week 4: Rather than assign a usual scholarly article, I’m giving you two pieces from Zócalo Public Square – an ” Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.” The first is a collective piece about contemporary traffic and transportation in Los Angeles, written by experts in related fields. The second is about leisure and place, written by historian Lawrence Culver, author of The Frontier of Leisure. As you read, you might consider how what the authors say about Los Angeles relates to what we’ve discussed about the experience of travel, the role of race in California’s labor, and the connection between place and opportunities for movement. Are there contemporary examples that reflect or contradict Culver’s argument here?

(Full Disclosure: I know both Culver and one of the authors of the collective piece. Zócalo has also published several of my articles in the past.)

Other Recommended Reading: For details on the rocky transition from railway cars to automobiles in Los Angeles, see Los Angeles and the Automobile by Scott L. Bottles. You can learn more about El Camino Real as well as Olvera Street and other elements of the construction of a Southern California Spanish Fantasy past in Phoebe Kropp’s excellent work California Vieja: Culture and Memory in a Modern American Place.


For Week 5: Let’s again stick with a brief piece from Zócalo Public Square, this one by William Deverell, Director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West (ICW). The piece encourages us to think about what a modern health tourism might look like in the context of older forms, which we’ll discuss on Thursday.

(Full Disclosure: Bill was my graduate advisor and I have worked at and with the ICW.)

Other Recommended Reading: For an well-regarded account of a Los Angeles (and Pasadena) area health seeker, check out Suffering in the Land of Sunshine by Emily K. Abel. To learn more about the Franciscan missionaries’ view of health, climate, and the salvation of the body, certainly read Anne Marie Reid’s excellent dissertation, Medics of the Soul and the Body: Sickness and Death in Alta California, 1769-1850. You can download a copy from USC here. Finally, I drew on David Igler’s work on the Pacific for our discussion of disease travel in the early 1800s. There’s a chapter on the subject in his book The Great Ocean or you can find a copy of his earlier article version, “Diseased Goods”, through a quick Google search.


For Week 6: No reading this week. We’ll simply look forward to hearing from our guest speakers about water’s role in connecting California with the larger world. See you on Thursday.

Recommended Reading: I polled our guest speakers for suggestions and this is what they came up with. As far as the Pacific, Michael Block recommends Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast or William Shaler’s Journal of a Voyage Between China and the North-Western Coast of America, Made in 1804 (which you can find in various formats through a quick Google search). For Jack London, Sue Hodson recommends The Cruise of the Snark, a compilation of the articles he wrote about that journey, or Jack London Reports, a compilation of his war reports from Korea. She also recommends a great website called The World of Jack London with plenty of links to other great resources.


Thank you all once more for a great course. It was a pleasure talking with you.

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