10 October 2018

BOOK: John R. WUNDER, Gold Mountain Turned to Dust : Essays on the Legal History of the Chinese in the Nineteenth-Century American West (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2018), ISBN 978-0-8263-5938-4, $29.95

The University of New Mexico Press has published a new book on the legal history of 19th century Chinese settlers in the American West.

Some half million Chinese immigrants settled in the American West in the nineteenth century. In spite of their vital contributions to the economy in gold mining, railroad construction, the founding of small businesses, and land reclamation, the Chinese were targets of systematic political discrimination and widespread violence. This legal history of the Chinese experience in the American West, based on the author’s lifetime of research in legal sources all over the West—from California to Montana to New Mexico—serves as a basic account of the legal treatment of Chinese immigrants in the West.

The first two essays deal with anti-Chinese racial violence and judicial discrimination. The remainder of the book examines legal precedents and judicial doctrines derived from Chinese cases in specific western states. The Chinese, Wunder shows, used the American legal system to protect their rights and test a variety of legal doctrines, making vital contributions to the legal history of the American West.


John R. Wunder is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. A widely published author and editor, his recent works include Reconfigurations of Native North America: An Anthology of New Perspectives and Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Foreword. No Equal Justice for Chinese
Liping Zhu
Preface. A Personal Commentary

Chapter One. Anti-Chinese Violence in the American West, 1850–1910
Chapter Two. Chinese in Trouble: Criminal Law and Race on the Trans-Mississippi West Frontier

Chapter Three. People v. Hall (Cal, 1854) Revisited
Chapter Four. The Chinese and California: A Torturous Legal Relationship
Chapter Five. Chinese Laundries and the Fourteenth Amendment

Pacific Northwest
Chapter Six. The Chinese and the Courts in the Pacific Northwest: Justice Denied?
Chapter Seven. The Courts and the Chinese in Frontier Idaho
Chapter Eight. Law and Chinese in Frontier Montana

Chapter Nine. Law and the Chinese on the Southwest Frontier, 1850s–1902
Chapter Ten. Territory of New Mexico v. Yee Shun: A Turning Point in Chinese Legal Relationships in the Trans-Mississippi West


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