Offered in partnership with the Institute for Historical Study
Bring your lunch!
Benjamin Madley’s An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873, (Yale University Press, 2016), is an important and long-overdue addition to our understanding of California and the United States. It is the first full account of the government-sanctioned genocide of California Indians under U.S. rule, during which that population fell by an astounding 80 percent. The book received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and has received numerous prizes.
Madley, who teaches History and American Indian studies at UCLA, will discuss the stakes associated with writing about genocide, his archival and on-reservation research, California's history of state-sponsored mass murder, and the book's public impact. He will offer his advice to writers working on history-related projects on how to make it to the finish line. After his talk and a Q&A session, he will be on hand for a book signing.
“Madley corrects the record with his gripping story of what really happened: the actual genocide of a vibrant civilization, thousands of years in the making.” —Jerry Brown, governor of California
About the book:
The first full account of the government-sanctioned genocide of California Indians under United State rule, Benjamin Madley’s An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873, has been widely praised as groundbreaking, raising fundamental questions about how Californians and Americans think of themselves and their history. Between 1846 and 1873, California’s Indian population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. Madley is the first to uncover the full extent of the slaughter, the involvement of state and federal officials, indigenous resistance, who did the killing, the taxpayer dollars that supported it, and why the killings ended. This deeply researched book is a comprehensive history of an American genocide. Madley describes pre-contact California and precursors to the genocide before explaining how the Gold Rush stirred vigilante violence against California Indians. He narrates the rise of a state-sanctioned killing machine and the broad societal, judicial, and political support for genocide. Many participated: vigilantes, volunteer state militiamen, U.S. Army soldiers, U.S. congressmen, California governors, and others. The state and federal governments spent at least $1,700,000 on campaigns against California Indians. Besides evaluating government officials’ culpability, Madley considers why the slaughter constituted genocide and how other possible genocides within and beyond the Americas might be investigated using the methods presented in this groundbreaking book.