Alta California became a part of Mexico in 1821 following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War.
The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, a major agricultural area.
California contains both the highest point (Mount Whitney) and the lowest point (Death Valley) in the contiguous United States.
Earthquakes are common because of the state's location along the Pacific Ring of Fire.
About 37,000 earthquakes are recorded each year, but most are too small to be felt. The state's economy is centered on finance, government, real estate services, technology, and professional, scientific and technical business services; together comprising 58% of the state's economy.
California also includes the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and the largest county by area, San Bernardino County.