Sonoma residents are probably familiar with the basics of the town’s early history, with Jose Altimira establishing the mission, Mariano Vallejo consolidating Mexican power and the Americanos raising the Bear Flag.

But on March 27, Marie Christine Duggan, a historian of early California history, brings an economic perspective to the events of the early decades of the 19th century, and reads them largely as a struggle between two imperial powers: Russia and Spain. And where they met was in Northern California – a circumstance that led Mexico, in 1823, to found the last of its 21 missions: San Francisco de Solano in Sonoma.

Duggan’s description of that power struggle begins with the gradual expansion of Russian influence into the New World – and shrinking of

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