This handy topical guide to Texas historiography is a follow-up to Light Townsend Cummins and Alvin R. Bailey Jr.’s edited collection A Guide to the History of Texas (New York, 1988). That earlier volume appeared as the Texas history field was still emerging from an earlier, Anglocentric era in which writings about the Texas past emphasized the state’s supposed exceptionalism. When the Guide appeared, it was only a decade after pioneering scholars such as Randolph B. Campbell, Arnoldo De León, Alwyn Barr, and others had dispelled the myth that Texas history was the tale of Anglo civilization subduing the savagery of Native Americans and Mexicans and that the state’s politics, life, and culture had been shaped almost entirely by conservative Anglo men. The essays in Discovering Texas History clearly reveal how much more sophisticated and inclusive Texas scholars have become in the last three decades. The range of Texas historiography has expanded widely. The experiences of women, indigenous people, African Americans, Latino/as, political leftists, and immigrants have received extensive treatment since 1988, although significant gaps remain in the scholarship of the state’s past.
Discovering Texas History joins other important recent works, such as Walter L. Buenger and Arnoldo De León’s Beyond Texas through Time: Breaking Away from Past Interpretations (College Station, Tex., 2011) and Gregg Cantrell and Elizabeth Hayes Turner’s Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas (College Station, Tex., 2007). Those works, however, were collections of interpretive essays that addressed theory and plunged into historiographical debates. In contrast, the editors of Discovering Texas History aim to introduce beginners to the available literature published since the late 1980s on topics pertaining to Texas history, leaving analysis of that literature to other volumes.
The editors have smartly organized the volume’s thorough and often engagingly written bibliographical essays and have assembled an impressive team of specialists. In Part 1 the essays are organized by topic, with chapters written by Matthew M. Babcock on Native Americans, Arnoldo De León on Mexican Americans, Alwyn Barr on African Americans, Rebecca Sharpless on Texas women, James C. Kearney on European immigration to Texas in the nineteenth century, Victoria H. Cummins and Light Townsend Cummins on literature, the arts, and music in Texas, Richard B. Wright on Texas urban history, and Richard B. McCaslin on the state’s military history. Essays in Part 2 are organized chronologically, with F. Todd Smith covering the histories of Spanish and Mexican rule to the end of the Texas Republic (1845), Randolph B. Campbell the antebellum period (1846–1860), Carl H. Moneyhon the Civil War and Reconstruction (1861–1874), Jessica Brannon-Wranosky the Populist and Progressive eras (1875–1915), Patrick Cox the years between World War I and World War II (1917–1945), and Sean P. Cunningham the modernization of Texas (1945–1980). The volume’s editors conclude with an essay on recent Texas history (1981 to the present). [End Page 162]
The authors emphasize providing readers and future researchers a detailed (but not all-encompassing) guide to publications on these topics. Individual books are described only briefly. Any analysis comes only as an aside. However, this work is a wonderful research tool for high school and college students, for professors guiding student writing projects, and for scholars who need a quick reminder about the available literature. The best contributions, such as Babcock’s essay on Native Americans and Smith’s on early Texas, also briefly note how the influence of Texas scholars has reached beyond the state.
Intentionally or not, bibliographical and historiographical collections like Discovering Texas History usually become clarion calls for new research. All such books are most revealing about what topics have been overlooked or forgotten by Texas historians, and this book is no exception. Clearly, much is yet to be done on the history of Texas religion, especially on how Texas clergy responded to the controversy over teaching evolution in public schools in the 1920s, the...