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April 2023

Communicating the Peoples’ University in the 21st Century

In her book, The Island of California: A History of the Myth, Dora Polk tells the story of that myth. The history of a vision. The facts of a fantasy. Her work examines the earliest presentations of California from coastline voyages in 1533 through multiple overland attempts to chart its shape together with the intrigue and controversy that continued to surround this issue through the seventeenth century. For two centuries the world knew very little about the vast size of the place that would eventually become the United States, during which time the interest in this new land waxed and waned with the fates and fortunes of European powers. Through records, diaries, maps and literature Polk traces the outsiders’ hopes for riches and reputation. The sailors’ love of adventure and fear of disaster and above all, the power that an idea can hold in the minds of men when they seek a goal convinced they already knew what they would find. Thus, both the idea and the ideal of California were born.