California: This Golden Land of Promise
Authors: Joan Irvine Smith and Jean Stern
Publication: The Irvine Museum, 2001
This massive tome looks like a coffee table book, but is actually a very enjoyable and accessible history of California from the prehistoric settlers up through the Spanish explorations, the mission era, and the Modoc War of the 1870’s, where the narrative comes to an end. Clearly written with many colorful stories that vividly portray the often turbulent events that mark California’s progress towards statehood, and illustrated with hundreds of paintings from 19th Century artists and the California Impressionists, as well as photographs of places and artifacts, it is thorough but extremely readable, and while produced for popular consumption, was carefully checked for accuracy by scholars in the History Department at Chapman University. The illustrations alone provide a valuable art historical education.