A New ExperienceApril 12, 2021
I often get asked how is it that someone who devoted their career to Early American History came to write a book about beaches from Rome to the present day? My answer is always the same–by accident. Part of me wants to say that I developed this wonderful theory about beach culture that drove me to do this, but it would not be true. The reason is much more mundane. When I was an administrator I was often called upon to give lectures. I became bored constantly talking about Piracy–my last book at the time. So that led to I talk entitled “My last Pirate Talk” and I meant it. So I was always on the lookout for a good lecture subject. I picked Alain Corbin’s, “The Lure of the Sea: Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840,” from the shelf in a bookstore and was intrigued by the story and by the images and proceeded to give a lecture “The Origins of Beach Culture.” That would likely been the end of it but there was an editor from the Los Angeles Times in the audience who thought it would be a good story for the paper. The story appeared and was read by an editor of UC Press, Monica McCormick, who thought it could go further and after some discussion I agreed to do what I thought would be a picture book. Unfortunately while I did pursue images at every museum I visited I never really had the time to work on a book. When I retired I did, but at the same time my archival instincts took over and off I went. I could now indulge my love of archival research. The more I did I realized there was a much better subject to be pursued and that the story of the evolution of beach resorts was intriguing. This was a bigger subject that kept growing. It eventually brought me to the present day and the controversies regarding access and sea level rise subjects far removed from the Seventeenth Century. A rather simple project became much more complicated. So serendipity brought this book about.