The first full account of the government-sanctioned genocide of California Indians under United States rule
Winner of the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Award for History and a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
“Gruesomely thorough. . . . Others have described some of these campaigns, but never in such strong terms and with so much blame placed directly on the United States government.”—Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek
Between 1846 and 1873, California’s Indian population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. Benjamin Madley is the first historian to uncover the full extent of the slaughter, the involvement of state and federal officials, the taxpayer dollars that supported the violence, indigenous resistance, who did the killing, and why the killings ended. This deeply researched book is a comprehensive and chilling 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.
Benjamin Madley is associate professor of history, University of California, Los Angeles, where he focuses on Native America, the United States, and genocide in world history. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.
"As Benjamin Madley writes in An American Genocide, by 1873, roaming bands of Indian-killers played a major role in reducing native numbers by more than 80 percent. . . . The mass murders raise the question: Did they constitute genocide by official design? [Madley] thinks so. He thoroughly documents the extent of the killings and their horrific consequences. . . . Emphasizing 'intention and repetition' in the California massacres, Madley [underscores] the designing role of state and federal officials."—Alan Taylor, New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice
"Gruesomely thorough. . . . Others have described some of these campaigns, but never in such strong terms and with so much blame placed directly on the United States government."—Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek
"By removing any doubt that genocide against Native people took place in the most populous and prosperous state in the US, Madley is aiming for a profound revisioning of US history as a whole. . . . No longer will genocide be something that happened in some distant locale—Namibia, Germany, Cambodia or Rwanda. Instead, it took place in the same sunny clime that American culture has long celebrated with images of fun and frolic: Disney, Hollywood, the Beach Boys and surfers in search of the endless summer."—Karl Jacoby, Journal of Genocide Research
"An American Genocide has settled the issue on whether or not genocide occurred in California."—William Bauer Jr., Journal of Genocide Research
"Madley has written an intensely disturbing and invaluable account of the genocide that white Americans carried out against California’s Indian peoples. . . . Madley’s book should move historians of the American West to consider genocide studies as a serious framework for analysing settler–Indian relations, and it should also compel genocide studies scholars to reconsider their understandings of genocide."—Margaret D. Jacobs, Journal of Genocide Research
"[A] stellar example of an unflinching commitment to document and analyse . . . invasion’s often horrific consequences."—Jeffrey Ostler, Journal of Genocide Research
Winner, Los Angeles Times Book Award for History
Winner, Gold Medal, California Book Award for Californiana
Winner, Heyday History Award from Heyday Books Publishing
True West Best New Western Author
Indian Country Today Hot List Book
"An American Genocide provides one of the most detailed and stunning narratives of violence, murder, and state-sponsored genocide in North America, making this book a major achievement in the fields of both Native American history and Genocide Studies."—Ned Blackhawk (Yale University), author of Violence Over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West
"Madley has far exceeded previous scholarship in making a persuasive case for concluding that what happened to California Indians from 1846 to 1873 qualifies as genocide."—Jeffrey Ostler (University of Oregon), author of The Plains Sioux and U.S. Colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee
"This book is a powerful contribution to the study of Native Americans, to California history, and to genocide studies as a whole. It should be read by every Californian."—Norman Naimark (Stanford University), author of Stalin’s Genocides
"Benjamin Madley has changed the conversation on genocide and American Indians. After An American Genocide, it will no longer be possible to debate whether or not genocide took place. Instead we will need to confront the questions of how and why genocide against American Indians took place and what the United States owes its indigenous communities."—Karl Jacoby (Columbia University), author of Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History
"Benjamin Madley’s book is brilliant, unsettling, and necessary. It will change forever how we understand the history of California, and it will make historians of other places and periods wonder what they have missed. An American Genocide will have a long legacy."—Pekka Hämäläinen (Oxford University), author of The Comanche Empire
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