“Towards a New Population History of Colonial California: Mortality and Fertility among Natives and Colonists in Alta California, 1769-1850”

OI Colloquium with Steve Hackel

This paper will present preliminary results from an analysis of fertility, mortality and marriage patterns among more than 89,000 Indigenous Californians and some 19,000 settlers or pobladores who lived in California’s 21 missions, 4 presidios, and 3 pueblos between 1769 and 1850.  Studying these two populations side by side raises important questions about differential outcomes from common ailments, and it challenges reigning assumptions about the transmission of infectious diseases from pobladores to Natives.

Born and raised in California, Steve Hackel earned his B.A. at Stanford University and his PhD in American History from Cornell University with specializations in early America and the American West. From 1994 to 1996 he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Omohundro Institute. He taught at Oregon State University from 1996 to 2007 and joined the faculty at UCR in the fall of 2007.  Within the larger field of American history, his research specializes on the Spanish Borderlands and the California Missions. He is especially interested in Native responses to colonialism, the effects of disease on colonial encounters, and new ways of visualizing these processes through digital history. His publications include Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis: Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769-1850 (OIEAHC, 2005), Father Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father (Hill and Wang/FSG, 2013), numerous essays on Native California, an American History textbook, and two edited volumes on early California. He is the General Editor of the Early California Population Project and the Director of both the Early California Cultural Atlas and The Pobladores Project: A Database of Early California Families and Communities. He is co-chair of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute’s Seminar on the Spanish Borderlands. He is writing a population history of early California to 1850 with an emphasis on immigration to the region during the colonial period and the simultaneous collapse of the Native population and the rapid growth of Californio families, developments that cannot be disentangled from one another.


The OI’s Colloquium Series is an ongoing seminar for scholars to present their work in progress for graduate students and colleagues.  Advanced registration is required. All participants read the pre-circulated  paper and prepare to engage in generous and generative feedback.

When we meet in person we are limited by the size of the OI’s conference room; online we limit registration to 40 (a typical size for the colloquium). No recordings are made of the discussions and no tweeting or posting on other social media platforms during the event is permitted in order to encourage this intellectual community of trusted exchange.


Contact Beverly Smith for your copy.