“It suddenly occurred to me that, in all the world, there neither was nor would ever be another place like this City of the Angels. Here the American people were erupting, like lava from a volcano; here, indeed, was the place for me: a ringside seat at the circus.”—Carey McWilliams, in Southern California Country
Carey McWilliams (1905-1980)—lawyer, activist, historian, and editor of The Nation for two decades—wrote the history of California as no one else could, or would. Alternately scathing, amusing, and disturbing, his sharp and literate accounts shatter the myths meant to obscure the real workings of the state, revealing always the relationship between the exploited and those who would exploit them.
Readers will find that McWilliams’s writing on history and the issues of his day is still relevant—in fact, it is the basis for the field that we now call California studies. His painstakingly researched accounts on topics ranging from racism to the intricacies of commerce, from farm labor to the cults of California, have opened the door for generations of writers and thinkers.