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Economies of the Four Eras of California (Essay Sample)


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Histroy of California. The comparisons and contrasts of economies, social structures, and political institutions and policies of the four eras of California history are presented in this paper.


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The History of California
The history of California can be split into pre-Columbian California (circa 40,000 BCE-1542 CE), Spanish California (1542-1821), Mexican California (1821-1848) and American California (1848-1920). The pre-Columbian era normally covers the history of Native American cultures before significant influence by Europeans. The Spanish California era was characterized by Spain claiming California and founding numerous villages and twenty-one missions from San Diego to Sonoma. The Spanish Christianized and Hispanized the indigenous settlers of California and used them to colonize new lands. The Mexican California era was characterized by the achievement of independence by Mexico from its colonial masters. The colonial policies of Mexico were extended to California, where governors upheld them in their leadership. The American California was characterized by the United States acquiring California from Mexico with the same boundary as the present state. It was not organized as a territory but was administered to statehood through a federal military's authority. The comparisons and contrasts of economies, social structures and political institutions and policies of the four eras of California history are presented in this paper.
Economies of the Four Eras of California
The economy of the pre-Columbia era was based on extensive plant cultivation. The natives during this era domesticated successful food plants. However, this domestication proved to be a slow and long process that prompted the development of permanent village farming life, which was attained in the two continents' tropical latitudes (Castillo). The sedentary village farming involved the cultivation of the most important crops to the natives, including maize, squashes, beans, cotton, and chili peppers (Castillo). The villagers also wove cloth and made pottery besides practicing other Neolithic skills, which made them economically self-contained (Castillo). Spanish California's economy was based on trade between the Spanish and the natives during that time (Calisphere). The curiosity and the desire for European manufactured goods led the indigenous Californians to establish regular trade relationships with the Spanish (Calisphere). The access to Spanish commodities escalated the coastal groups' power and prestige, which gave them greater leverage in dealing with inland groups.
The economy of Mexican California was based on the rearing of huge herds of cattle. Skilled cowhands usually rounded up the animals, slaughtered them, stripped and cleaned the hides and stretched them hides in the sun to dry (Library of Congress). The hides generated leather for manufacturing shoes and sandals. The fat from these animals was boiled in iron pots until it melted, forming a fatty liquid called tallow which was used in making soap and candles (Library Of Congress). The natives traded the tallow and hide for manufactured goods such as cloth, axes, shoes and jewelry from foreign merchants who sailed along the coast (LibraryOfCongress). American California's economy was based on gold mining where foreign individuals flocked to the state to access the gold (Library of Congress). The foreigners came with commodities such as food, liquors and tools which they traded with the indigenous people (Library of Congress). Among the foreigners also came entrepreneurs, gamblers, prospective miners and more so farmers who developed agriculture.
From the above information, there was the trading of local goods for new goods with the foreigners during the Spanish California era, the Mexican era and the American era. There was no trading during the pre-Columbian era as the natives did enough agriculture, made pottery and other Neolithic skills that made them economically self-contained. Again, only during the American California era, when gold mining was a source of economic reinforcement. The natives during the pre-Columbian California domesticated crops while the natives during Spanish California reared cattle. During the first histories of California, the natives did the agriculture themselves, but foreign farmers joined the local farmers in developing Agriculture during the American California era.
Social Structures of the Four Eras of California
The pre-Columbian California era was characterized by surprisingly diverse cultures with diverse ways of life. These native groups spoke at least a hundred different mutually unintelligible languages, practiced different religions and ate different foods (Castillo). These communities had neither alphabets nor written records for historians to interpret. These indigenous people were organized in a single society but lived in hundreds of small politically autonomous communities connected by kinship ties and trade (Castillo). These communities consisted of two hundred to five hundred people with more sedentary groups having social classes with a wide gap between the rich and the poor (Castillo). The Spanish California era's social structure was characterized by a pyramid structure with a few Spaniards at the top, a group of mixed-race individuals beneath them and a huge population of indigenous and a considerable number of slaves beneath the mixed-race people (Calisphere). The Spaniards at the top held all the positions of economic privileges and political powers (Calisphere). The mixed-race people involved the offsprings of white and black parents. The slaves include the captured and enslaved Indians.
Mexican California's social structure was characterized by powerful ranching families at the top who controlled numerous acres of land where they reared cattle. These powerful families formed fortified villages creating an elite class of rancheros who owned thousands of prime acres (LibraryOfCongress). These families mostly focused on cattle rearing for hide and tallow, which they sold to tanneries in Boston and candle and soap firms, respectively, in South America (LibraryOfCongress). The Mexican California era's middle class involved offsprings of the intermarriage between the Mexican and the European and American merchants (Library of Congress). The laborers formed the lower class of individuals (Library of Congress). The American California's social structure was characterized by an upper class of individuals who were the wealthiest during the era, had access to a lot of power and had a vast influence on the collective identity of the American California era (Library of Congress). The middle class came right after the upper class of individuals as they were not as rich as the upper-class individuals (Library of Congress). The low class included the low-earning individuals who only had enough to meet their basic needs.
From the above information, it is clear that individuals were grouped as per their wealth status across the four histories of California. The wealthiest individuals formed the top class, the half casts formed the second class, and the laborers and the slaves formed the lower class of people. In all four histories, the merchants and the traders who acquired extreme wealth from trade formed the top class. However, the pre-Columbian era shows an exception as some communities lived in small autonomous communities connected by kinship ties and not classified into social classes by wealth. It is observed that whenever their intermarriage occurred between the natives and the foreign merchants, the resulting offspring formed individuals' middle class while the natives occupied the lower class of individuals.
The Political Institutions/Policies of the Four Eras of California
During the pre-Columbian era, the natives lived in communities comprising between two hundred to five hundred individuals under a democratically elected male leader. The villages where these communities lived were under the authority of a village leader who lived in a central position surrounded by smaller settlements (Castillo). The community jurisdiction was marked by boundaries, usually eight to ten square miles that separated these communities (Castillo). Spanish California was u

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