History of California

From the first Spanish settlements to the annexation to the United States.

In the year 1542, when the Spanish Juan Cabrillo saw the port of San Diego for the first time, almost half a million inhabitants lived scattered in tribal villages on the west coast. Cabrillo gave that land the name of California, in homage to the imaginary island that appears in the Amadigi di Gaula. The British Francis Drake arrived in the region later, a few years and tried to appropriate it in the name of his queen, although in 1602 the expedition led by Sebastian Vizcaino secured Spanish rule in the area. At the end of the eighteenth century, the Spaniards began to colonize the territory, for fear that other countries would anticipate them in the foundation of settlements. The leading role was entrusted to the religious and Father Junipero Serra, Gaspar de Portola or Fermin Lasuen, established numerous missions along the Camino Real. The founding of San José and later of Los Angeles favored the population of California which was linked to Mexico in 1821, after gaining independence from Spain. Starting from 1840, the North American colonization began, which entailed an increase in political and military pressure from the United States in order to snatch California territory from Mexico. The outbreak of the war between the United States and Mexico and its conclusion with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), represented the definitive annexation of the territory to the United States. For its part, the Baja California peninsula still belongs to Mexico and was subsequently divided into two administrative entities.

The gold rush and economic growth

The incorporation of California was providential, as in 1849 gold was discovered at a place called Sutter’s Mill, near Sacramento. In fact, just a week after the change of sovereignty, news spread over California that gold had been discovered in the rivers of New Helvetia, a mission founded by Swiss adventurer John Sutter. This caused a massive influx of immigrants from the east, in what became known as the gold rush (gold rush), and starting in 1849, numerous fortune seekers, the famous 49ers, from the midwest, from the Europe and even from the East. The US authorities could not have dreamed of a more effective way of consolidating their control over such a strategic area, and California soon became an economic pillar of the Union. Thus, as soon as the opportunity arose, California’s admission to the Union was accelerated, which took place definitively in 1850, the state initially declared itself non-slave. In the following decade, large numbers of people from China, already present in the region in small numbers, and from Ireland began to arrive.

  • See ejiaxing.org for California state facts, including geography, climate, flora and fauna as well as major cities.

The Civil War began in 1861, and it practically did not affect California. During the war and after its conclusion, the region showed great energy and dynamism in its development process. The constant need for workers, initially for railway construction, was largely covered by the import of Chinese labor. A decisive fact was the conclusion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, which gave a new dimension to California and the United States in general. The arrival of the railway facilitated the massive movement of the Anglo-Saxon population to California, and in a few years the first anti-immigration laws also arrived.

With the depletion of gold deposits and the loss of profitability of mining activities, the first economic crisis came in the 1870s. It could be overcome with the expansion of agriculture, thanks above all to new agricultural techniques and new irrigation methods, favored by the construction of large water works. Parallel to the increase in agricultural production, there was an important industrial growth, especially in the oil, aeronautics, cinema sectors, with which California was able to mitigate the effects of the Great Depression and becoming, after the Second World War, one of the richest states of the country.

  • See itypemba.com to learn specific information about San Francisco California.

California in the 20th century

The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the consequent reduction of the distances between California and the east coast of the United States accelerated the economic and demographic growth of this state, since with that monumental work of engineering many markets were opened for Californian products. As already mentioned, the crisis of 1929 and the Great Depression severely affected the Californian economy, but this recovered with the explosion of the Second World War thanks, above all, to its powerful industry, which specialized in the construction of ships, aircraft and weapons in general. When the war ended in 1945, California had all the elements (people, raw materials, industries and financial resources) to continue growing to become the most powerful state in the United States. In 1960, California was the most populous state in the country, a very heterogeneous population, which led to frequent social unrest in the critical years of the struggle for civil rights, including those that occurred in Watts in 1965.

Since 1970, California has been hit by US government cuts in military spending. The economic crisis it suffered during that decade caused the introduction of new laws such as Proposition 13, a controversial law that lowered property taxes and caused intense debate in the nation. Starting in the 1980s, California’s economy recovered, on the one hand, by the increase in military spending during the presidency of Ronald Reagan who had been governor of California, until he was elected to the presidency of the United States, and on the other, for the boom in the electronics industry whose center is Silicon Valley. In the early 1990s, the California’s economy still suffered an economic downturn caused largely by oil prices. This crisis has not prevented, but on the contrary accelerated, the arrival of new immigrants, which has led to more social instability and the adoption of legal measures aimed at stemming the flow of migration, and at controlling social spending. This led California to become the populous and multi-ethnic state we know today. This diversity generates wealth and is also unfortunately the source of social tensions that have worsened in recent decades since the economic recession.

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