San Francisco, CA (1990)

Looking south from Coit Tower
Summit of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco, CA (1990)

Letter from the Chair

The California Studies Center has been established at the University of California, Berkeley, in order to advance scholarly research on the past and present of the State of California. The field of California Studies has been burgeoning in colleges and universities around the state, with several new research centers and degree programs begun in recent years, and another one planned for the Merced Campus of the University. The Center brings the unparalleled talent of UC Berkeley faculty and libraries into the mainstream of California Studies, as well as promoting the teaching and discussion of California topics on campus.

Despite the long-standing strength of international and area studies at UC Berkeley, the local region has been relatively neglected. Yet there is a wealth of knowledge from a variety of disciplines which does not always come under the rubric of California Studies. The Center faculty believe that now is the time to shake up disciplinary limitations and join the public dialogue on the past, present and future of the State of California, so as to do a better job of preparing our young people to be knowledgeable citizens and leaders for tomorrow.

California has become a vital topic of research, teaching and policy debate for several reasons. One is the worldwide interest in California as a global industrial powerhouse and technological proving grounds. Another is California's leading role in American politics and cultural production. A third is that the diversity of California's natural conditions and the diversity of its people render this a unique laboratory to study the interaction between humans and natural resources. Lastly, there is a growing demand from the public and policy-makers for better understanding and intellectual guidance on issues of moment for the state and its 35 million people.

The Center brings together a distinguished group of faculty and staff on the Berkeley and Davis campuses, drawing from a wide range of expertise. Our faculty hail from History, Geography, English, Architecture, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Community Studies. Staff affiliates include librarians from across campus and the editor of the Archives of the University of California.

Behind the Center stands the incomparable Bancroft Library, one of the premier archives in the United States and the finest library on California and Western Americana. Director Charles Faulhaber, a member of the Center faculty, has welcomed the new Center for California Studies as a valuable complement to the Bancroft's work of supporting scholarship and public outreach. For the first time, the Bancroft has an allied research and teaching arm on the Berkeley campus.

The California Studies Center is housed at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, whose purview includes the wider implications of labor, employment and business organization on society, particularly in California. The Institute provides infrastructure and a supportive environment, and puts no limitations on the Center's activities.