Converting California

Indians and Franciscans in the Missions

James A. Sandos

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February 28, 2008
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
18 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300136432
Paper

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Cloth

This book is a compelling and balanced history of the California missions and their impact on the Indians they tried to convert. Focusing primarily on the religious conflict between the two groups, it sheds new light on the tensions, accomplishments, and limitations of the California mission experience.

James A. Sandos, an eminent authority on the American West, traces the history of the Franciscan missions from the creation of the first one in 1769 until they were turned over to the public in 1836. Addressing such topics as the singular theology of the missions, the role of music in bonding Indians to Franciscan enterprises, the diseases caused by contact with the missions, and the Indian resistance to missionary activity, Sandos not only describes what happened in the California missions but offers a persuasive explanation for why it happened.

James A. Sandos is Farquhar Professor of the Southwest, University of Redlands.  

“Generations of writers have defended or deplored California’s fabled Spanish missions. Historian James Sandos takes us beyond the polemics, with fresh and convincing explanations of Indians and missionaries alike.”—David J. Weber, author of The Spanish Frontier in North America

“This outstanding book will be indispensable in the continuing dialogue on the history of early California.”—Martin Ridge, Huntington Library

“The book is well organized, convincingly argued, and tightly written. It will be well received by the general public, as well as by scholars interested in American Indian history, Church studies, the Spanish borderlands, and California’s rich past.”—Clifford E. Trafzer, History: Reviews of New Books

"James Sandos has performed a wonderful service to the history of the California missions in this book. He has managed to take a balanced view of the missions and of the actions of the various protagonists that participated in this period of California history. . . . Sandos' analysis is simply excellent. . . . He has presented as objective and as clear an analysis of the Franciscan mission system as has ever been produced."—John F. Schwaller, Itinerario

"California mission studies scholars have long awaited a book like this. . . . Now, James Sandos's Converting California, clearly the best single book to be published about missions in decades, provides the synthesis. Building on his extensive and masterful research Sandos constructs a compelling, highly readable narrative, his major points adeptly illustrated by stories of specific individuals and events. He demonstrates that only by integrating the varied perspectives of mission Indians, non-mission Indians, Spanish and Mexican Franciscans, soldiers, and settlers, and visitors from the outside world can the mission be fully comprehended. Along the way, Sandos poses and provides learned and satisfying answers to the central provocative questions."—Richard J. Orsi, Western Historical Quarterly

"This book will be certainly of interest to students of anthropology and religion and especially to that large readership so passionate about anything having to do with California history."—American Indian Quarterly

"[Sandos] weaves a lively narrative, spiced with anecdotes. . . . Sandos's book offers a valuable overview of the cultural and religious worldviews and conflicts that divided California Indians and Franciscans in this late colonial Spanish mission enterprise."—Susan M. Deeds, Hispanic American Historical Review