Historian’s database offers new view of colonial California

Through his Pobladores Project, Steven Hackel spotlights the non-American Indian settlers and soldiers who lived in California between 1769 and 1850

Understanding American history is a challenge, but what happens when some of that history is scattered, inaccessible, and in another language? Steven Hackel, a professor of history at the University of California, Riverside, knows these obstacles all too well.

Hackel was recently awarded an archival grant by the John Randolph Haynes Foundation to continue his work with The Pobladores Project Database, which aims to provide a greater understanding of the non-American Indian population in colonial California through 1850. Hackel, who described himself as being “very fortunate” to receive the award, noted the funding will also help establish an online presence for the database.

Throughout his 25-year research and writing career, Hackel has focused on the history of Spanish colonial California; the influence of Father Junípero Serra, the canonized Franciscan priest who initiated the system of California missions; and colonial North America. His research reveals the complexity of Spanish colonization in North America, a broad segment of American history that’s embedded in non-English sources — that is, ones that don’t begin in the original 13 English colonies of the East Coast.