Queen’s Lecture Theatre
University of London
Dr Benjamin Madley (UCLA) – An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873
Between 1846 and 1873, California’s Indian population plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000. Madley is the first to uncover the full extent of the slaughter, the involvement of state and federal officials, indigenous resistance, who did the killing, the taxpayer dollars that supported it, and why the killings ended. This deeply researched book is a comprehensive 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 at the University of California, Los Angeles. He focuses on Native America, the United States, and colonialism in world history. He holds a B.A., M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Yale University and an M.St. from Oxford University. Born in Redding, California, Madley spent much of his childhood in Karuk Country, near the Oregon border, where he became interested in the relationship between colonizers and indigenous peoples. He earned a B.A. in history at Yale University in 1994. He attended Oxford University as a Henry Fellow and earned his History M.St. there in 1995. In 2002, after a period spent working in the San Francisco Bay area and hiking more than 600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail through California, Madley began working on a Ph.D. in history at Yale, returning to California in 2006-2010 to conduct research in multiple California archives and to visit California Indian nations. Madley taught at Dartmouth College for two years as an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department and Native American Studies Program. In 2012, he became an assistant professor of history at UCLA, where he teaches courses in American Indian history, United States history, and genocide in world history. He lives in Los Angeles.
Introduction by Dr Rebecca Jinx (RHUL):