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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Patterns of Demographic Change in the Missions of Central Alta California


A number of scholars have examined the cause of demographic collapse in the Californias, and have included stress, disease, and subsistence crises among their explanations. This essay does not attempt to explain in detail the causes of demographic change, but rather to document population movements in the seven missions in central Alta California, from Santa Cruz in the north to San Luis Obispo in the south. The basic premise entertained here is that the process of demographic change in the Californias can best be examined on the basis of detailed studies of discrete subregions which for cultural, geographical, or historical reasons manifested similarities in the development of mission communities and patterns of demographic change. This paper, then, explores demographic change in the seven mission communities, contributing to the growing literature on Indian demographic change in the Americas.

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