Synopses & Reviews
The first full account of the government-sanctioned genocide of California Indians under United States rule.
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’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 Empir
"Comprehensively researched and well-written....An American Genocide courageously challenges the status quo — with primary sources — about how the state and federal government were involved in the decimation of the California Indian tribes." True West
"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
"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
"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
"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 documented his charge of genocide [with] prosecutorial ferocity.... [His] appendices are the most complete incident-by-incident tally ever compiled of Indian lives lost during this terrible period. This scrupulously detailed epilogue is the equivalent of a memorial wall that we are visiting for the first time." Peter Nabokov, New York Review of Books
About the Author
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.