The history of California can be divided into: the Native American period; European exploration period from 1542 to 1769; the Spanish colonial period, 1769 to 1821; the Mexican period, 1821 to 1848; and United States statehood, which continues to this present day.
California was settled from the North by successive waves of arrivals during the last 10,000 years. It was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in pre-Columbian North America. After contact with Spanish explorers, most of the Indians died out from European diseases.
After the Portolà expedition of 1769–70, Spanish missionaries began setting up 21 California Missions on or near the coast of Alta (Upper) California, beginning in San Diego. (Lower California has always been part of Mexico.) During the same period, Spanish military forces built several forts (presidios) and three small towns (pueblos). Two of the pueblos grew into the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose. When Mexico took over from Spain, it closed all of the missions in the 1830s. They left behind a "Californio" (Hispanic) population of several thousand families, with a few small military units. The Mexican–American War of 1846-48 brought California into the United States. The unexpected discovery of gold produced a spectacular goldrush in Northern California, attracting hundreds of thousand of ambitious young men from around the world. Only a few struck it rich, and many returned disappointed. Most appreciated the opportunities, especially in agriculture, and brought their families to join them. California became a state in 1850 and played a small role in the American Civil War. The Chinese who came increasingly under attack from nativists; they were forced out of mining and agriculture and into Chinatowns in the larger cities. As gold petered out, California increasingly became a highly productive agricultural society. The coming of the railroads in 1869 linked its rich economy with the rest of the nation, and attracted a steady stream of migrants. In the late 19th century, Southern California, especially Los Angeles, started to grow rapidly.
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