Rush to Gold: The French and the California Gold Rush, 1848-1854 (Yale University Press, $40)

rush-to-gold_Malcolm-J-RohrboughThe California Gold Rush never stops inspiring stories, and now we have Malcolm J. Rohrbough’s Rush to Gold: The French and the California Gold Rush, 1848-1854. The University of Iowa professor emeritus tells the story of the 30,000 Frenchmen who landed in California by boat, hoping, like everyone else, to get rich.

The book opens new ground in explaining how gold fever impacted life and politics in France, which was undergoing a revolution when the rush started in 1848. He bounces across the ocean to describe the inevitable conflicts that arose between French and American miners. Rohrbough writes well enough to pull it off. Ultimately, in France as in America, the struggle was all about the money. As one Frenchman wrote: “California is the only country, the only chance, the only business which is able, in an almost certain way, to make you a millionaire at the end of two years.”

—Leo W. Banks, author of Stalwart Women: Frontier Stories of Indomitable Spirit

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