California is situated on the Western edge of the United States with it being 770 miles in length and 250 miles in width. This gives the state a total area of 163,696 square miles which makes it the third largest state in the United States after Alaska and Texas. The whole of its western border looks out on the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered to the North with Oregon, to the North-East with Nevada and to the South East with Arizona. To the south lies Baja California in Mexico. The population of California is 39.3 million and is the most populated State. Its economy of 2.67 trillion dollars is the highest nationally and if it were a country it would be ranked 5th in the world. The Urban centres of the state are dominated by the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.
California has been populated for thousands of years by Native Americans. Prior to European colonization it has been estimated that the population was around 200,000. During the 19th century disease resulted in the population of the indigenous population being reduced by 90% to 15,000. Although California was first discovered by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 it wasn’t until 1769 when the Spanish began to build missions that the population started to rise rapidly. It all started with 21 missions along the coast and when Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 California became a Mexican province.
California became an American territory after the Mexican-American war in 1848, and was made the 31st state in 1850. It was at this time that gold was first discovered at Sutter’s Mill and this led to an explosion in population numbers. Between 1850 and 1860 the population rose by 410 % from 92,000 to 380,000 as new settlers streamed into the state to seek their fortune. This momentum was maintained throughout the rest of the 19th century as rich fertile agricultural lands were discovered, and people arrived in order to farm the land.
By the end of the 19th century the population had reached 1,500,000 and now the development of the rail network had made the region more accessible to the rest of the United States. The area was seen as the land of opportunity with its favourable climate, rich soils and emerging towns and cities. In the early 20th century Hollywood started to emerge as the film industry developed. Soon it became the centre of the film industry in the States. People continued to arrive into the area as population hit over 5 million by 1930. The growth from this period to today’s figure of over 39 million has been a story of continuous growth. People are attracted into the state pulled by the attraction of economic opportunity, the wonderful climate and attractive modern cities to live in.
With its close proximity to Mexico California has been affected by illegal migrants crossing the border. Spanish is the most popular language spoken in Los Angeles as the numbers arriving continue to increase. This has produced a young population and the state has a high natural birth rate which has also helped to swell the numbers of the population. Although California is a relatively new area, its incredible growth has seen it emerge as an influential economic power on the world stage. The success of the region has had a major influence on the economic success of the United States.