From Publishers Weekly
Challenging San Francisco's popular image as a tolerant, carefree, gracious city, Brechin unearths 150 years of deeply unsettling history. San Francisco's founding aristocracy were Southerners drawn to California as a mecca newly opened up for enterpriseAparticularly for plantation culture. After the 1849 gold rush, San Francisco was built on what Brechin terms a "Pyramid of Mining"Aa pre-capitalist financial structure employed from Roman times through the Renaissance, uniting miners, financiers, the military and land speculators in a power elite whose only concern was limitless economic growth. While press lord William Randolph Hearst converted a mining fortune into a media conglomerate preaching the superiority of "the American race" and calling for the annexation of Mexico, other San Franciscan power brokers, according to Brechin, channeled mining profits into gas works, currency speculation, political and judicial bribery and the exploitation of forests. From Nevada to Northern California, they wrecked towns, deforested the pristine Lake Tahoe region, buried acres of farmland under mining debris and contaminated the soil, lakes and rivers. A historical geographer and coauthor of Farewell, Promised Land, Brechin concludes with a look at the University of California's pioneering nuclear research program laid the groundwork for the Manhattan Project. Enlivened with period engravings, photos, political cartoons, magazine art, posters and maps, this stirring, environmentally conscious history ranks with Kevin Starr's Americans and the California Dream, powerfully establishing the city on the bay as a true emblem of the atomic age. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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"Imperial San Francisco nearly splits its seams with interesting nuggets of history discovered by Brechin inside musty archives at the University of California. His lucid style and sense of rhythm make the book read like a novel." - Peter Byrne, SF Weekly "A refreshing surprise. Here is a book that fairly sizzles with outrage over water-grabs and land-grabs, 'environmental blunders' and 'the dynastic, corporate and political alliances that enable some cities to claim and acquire empires as their rightful due' - and yet the target is quaint and charming San Francisco rather than the customary urban whipping boy, Los Angeles....No one who reads [Brechin's] book will ever look at quaint old San Francisco in quite the same way again." - Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times "Imperial San Francisco provides a myth-shattering interpretation of the hidden costs that the growth of San Francisco has exacted on its surrounding regions, presenting along the way a revolutionary new theory of urban development. Written in a lively, accessible style, the narrative is filled with vivid characters, engrossing stories and a rich variety of illustrations. Brechin advances a new way of understanding urban history as he traces the links among environment, economy, and technology that led ultimately to the atom bomb and the nuclear arms race." - Don Denevi, Palo Alto Daily News "A classic of urban history, environmental history, California history, and socially oriented architectural criticism, this work contains scholarship that is thrilling in its comprehensiveness. Never before have the inner dynamics of the regional civilization centered in San Francisco been so comprehensively integrated." - Dr. Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California, author of Americans and the California Dream "Mixing the easygoing authority of the great urban historian Spiro Kostof with the penetrating investigative journalism of Mike Davis, Brechin offers a sweeping urban history of San Francisco. Part theory, part history, but with a whole lot of graft, sex, and murder thrown in, [his book] has pioneered a genre: potboiler urban history." - Randy Gragg, The Oregonian "Imperial San Francisco is a great gift of a book, the product of extraordinary research, insight, and hard work that connects a lot of dots and gives me a reinvigorated focus and curiosity [about] what California culture was and what might become of it all." - Gary Snyder"