The University of Wisconsin Press

U.S. History / Literature / Chicano Studies


The History of Alta California
A Memoir of Mexican California
Antonio María Osio
Translated, Edited, and Annotated by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz

The History of Alta California received an award from the Historical Society of Southern California. The award is the “Norman Neuerburg Award for Distinguished Research and Writing on the History of Early California” and it is awarded for the best book on early California history prior to the Gold Rush.

Antonio María Osio’s La Historia de Alta California was the first written history of upper California during the era of Mexican rule, and this is its first complete English translation. A Mexican-Californian, government official, and the landowner of Angel Island and Point Reyes, Osio writes colorfully of life in old Monterey, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and gives a first-hand account of the political intrigues of the 1830s that led to the appointment of Juan Bautista Alvarado as governor.

Osio wrote his History in 1851, conveying with immediacy and detail the years of the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846–1848 and the social upheaval that followed. As he witnesses California’s territorial transition from Mexico to the United States, he recalls with pride the achievements of Mexican California in earlier decades and writes critically of the onset of U.S. influence and imperialism. Unable to endure life as foreigners in their home of twenty-seven years, Osio and his family left Alta California for Mexico in 1852.

Osio’s account predates by a quarter century the better-known reminiscences of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo and Juan Bautista Alvarado and the memoirs of Californios dictated to Hubert Howe Bancroft’s staff in the 1870s. Editors Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz have provided an accurate, complete translation of Osio’s original manuscript, and their helpful introduction and notes offer further details of Osio's life and of society in Alta California.

The publication of narratives and chronicles of Californios is long overdue. Beebe and Senkewicz’s faithful translation of La Historia de Alta California contributes to the recovery of long-neglected material by Latinos in the U.S. They are pioneers in a growing field and I am certain this will be a watershed work.”
—Rosaura Sánchez, University of California, San Diego

Rose Marie Beebe is assistant professor of Spanish at Santa Clara University. Robert M. Senkewicz is associate professor and chair in the Department of History at Santa Clara University. He is the author of Vigilantes in Gold Rush San Francisco.

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May 1996
LC: 95-025695 F
400 pp.,  6 x 9
46 b/w photos, 7 maps

ISBN 978-0-299-14970-3
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