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In 1949, lawyer, historian, and journalist Carey McWilliams stepped back to assess the state of California at the end of its first one hundred years--its history, population, politics, agriculture, and social concerns. As he examined the reasons for the prodigious growth and productivity that have characterized California since the Gold Rush, he praised the vitality of the new citizens who had come from all over the world to populate the state in a very short time. But he also made clear how brutally the new Californians dealt with "the Indian problem," the water problem, and the need for migrant labor to facilitate California's massive and highly profitable agricultural industry. As we look back now on 150 years of statehood, it is particularly useful to place the events of the past fifty years in the context of McWilliams's assessment in California: The Great Exception. Lewis Lapham has written a new foreword for this edition.
This book was the first broad exposé of the social and environmental damage inflicted by the growth of corporate agriculture in California. Factories in the Field--together with the work of Dorothea Lange, Paul Taylor, and John Steinbeck--dramatizes the misery of the dust bowl migrants hoping to find work in California agriculture. McWilliams starts with the scandals of the Spanish land grant purchases, and continues on to examine the experience of the various ethnic groups that have provided labor for California's agricultural industry--Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Filipinos, Armenians--the strikes, and the efforts to organize labor unions
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