Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I’ve finished reading Belich’s latest history. I know some critics pan it for being derivative. But for the lay reader like me that’s useful. I can’t keep up with constant flow of new material and reintepretation of the old.

It’s a provocative read. I’ll give one example:
"As late as 1879, the old Spanish settlement of Los Angeles was ‘still a mere village, mostly Mexican … and the country round was practically a desert.’" Belich is quoting American historian Pomeroy’s ‘The Pacific Slope.’ It introduces a section devoted to the rise of Los Angeles. The business community there persuaded the Southern Railway Company to make the city its terminal rather than San Diego which had a natural port.

The oil and movie industries saw a flood of immigrants. Irrigation added a further factor, horticulture.

Belich goes on: ‘The California fruit industry … was similar to the contemporary rise of the export meat industry of New Zealand. The latter did not invent lamb consumption in London, but it did invent the Sunday lamb on the average table. California did not invent orange consumption in New York, but it did invent the oranges in the average fruit bowl and the orange juice on the average breakfast table. It also invented the raisins in the average school lunchbox and the tasteless iceberg lettuce in the average salad. … [Each industry] created its mass-market by emphasising its ‘freshness’ despite age, and its American-ness and British-ness, despite distance, Each compressed space and eliminated seasons. … [Both] were products of the same phenomenon: recolonisation ‘

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