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Inventing Texas

Early Historians of the Lone Star State

By Laura Lyons McLemore

Publication Year: 2004

Bluebonnets and tumbleweeds, gunslingers and cattle barons all form part of the romanticized lore of the state of Texas. It has an image as a larger-than-life land of opportunity, represented by oil derricks pumping black gold from arid land and cattle grazing seemingly endless plains. In this historiography of eighteenth– and nineteenth–century chronologies of the state, Laura McLemore traces the roots of the enduring Texas myths and tries to understand both the purposes and the methods of early historians. Two central findings emerge: first, what is generally referred to as the Texas myth was a reality to earlier historians, and second, myth has always been an integral part of Texas history. Myth provided the impetus for some of the earliest European interest in the land that became Texas. Beyond these two important conclusions, McLemore’s careful survey of early Texas historians reveals that they were by and large painstaking and discriminating researchers whose legacy includes documentary sources that can no longer be found elsewhere. McLemore shows that these historians wrote general works in the spirit of their times and had agendas that had little to do with simply explaining a society to itself in cultural terms. From Juan Agustin Morfi’s Historia through Henderson Yoakum’s History of Texas to the works of Dudley Wooten, George Pierce Garrison, and Lester Bugbee, the portrayal of Texas history forms a pattern. In tracing the development of this pattern, McLemore provides not only a historiography but also an intellectual history that gives insight into the changing culture of Texas and America itself. Early Texas historians came from all walks of life, from priests to bartenders, and this book reveals the unique contributions of each to the fabric of state history . A must–read for lovers of Texas history, Inventing Texas illuminates the intricate blend of nostalgia and narrative that created the state’s most enduring iconography.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University


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p. ix

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pp. 3-10

Have you heard the one about the Yankee businessman who, familiar with all the stories about Texas, found himself one day in Fort Worth for a convention? He ordered a steak in the hotel restaurant and was astounded when it was served on a plate the size of a wagon wheel. “Oh,” explained the waiter, “you...

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1 Prologue: Historians of Spanish Texas

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pp. 11-17

As many historians have pointed out, in order to gain insight into the writing of history in any age, one must have some knowledge of the climate of opinion at that time, some understanding of the historical paradigm that influenced the historian. The idea that history should serve some useful purpose predated the nineteenth century. It derived from the philosophy of the Enlightenment in the late eighteenth...

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2 Texas Historians and the Romantic Revolution

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pp. 18-40

Americans, like Spaniards, had from the beginning many romantic elements in their view of the New World. By the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the American Romantic Movement was under way, and it was to have a profound and lasting effect on the way Americans viewed the world and their place in it. Whereas the Enlightenment...

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3 Texas Historians and the Rise of the Lone Star

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pp. 41-58

Attention had focused on colonization and revolution in Texas during the 1830s, but it turned to the political and diplomatic fortunes of the new republic in the 1840s. Controversy, far from quieting after Texas claimed its independence, increased after the revolution. Mexico’s loss of such a large piece of real estate with its attendant...

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4 Pride Goeth . . . before a Fall: History Writing in Antebellum Texas

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pp. 59-70

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo not only ended the dispute with Mexico over the boundary of Texas but institutionalized Anglo-American hegemony to the Pacific coast of North America. The addition of so much territory provided fuel for the already-hot fires of sectionalism in the United States. In the third quarter of the nineteenth century, national turmoil and divided loyalties would leave the new...

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5 Lost Cause: Texas History, 1860-80

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pp. 71-80

In the decade following the publication of Yoakum’s History, two major events occurred that affected the writing of Texas history: the Civil War and the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. They influenced not only the way Texans thought about the past but also methods of writing about it. In a broader sense they influenced the relationship of Texas history to American history...

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6 Every Texan an Historian

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pp. 81-93

Discernible changes took place in Texas history writing during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Whether they constituted progress depends on one’s definition of the term. Civil War and Reconstruction contributed to these changes in two important ways. The aftermath of the Civil War produced a nostalgia for the triumphant revolutionary era and a kinship with the states of the former Confederacy that had not previously existed even during the war itself.1 But...

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7 Conclusion

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pp. 94-100

If, as some modern historians have charged, Texas history has resisted generational revisions, can we find an explanation in the study of nineteenth-century histories and historians for the phenomenal “shelf life” of Texas history? Best-selling Texas author T. R. Fehrenbach maintains that the “romances” of the nineteenth century “are vital to Texans’ ability to see themselves as a people and to...


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pp. 101-113


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pp. 115-123


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pp. 125-130

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446389
E-ISBN-10: 1603446389
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585443147
Print-ISBN-10: 158544314X

Page Count: 144
Illustrations: Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University
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OCLC Number: 774384941
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Inventing Texas

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Subject Headings

  • Texas -- Historiography.
  • Texas -- History -- 18th century -- Chronology.
  • Texas -- History -- 19th century -- Chronology.
  • Folklore -- Texas.
  • Historians -- Texas -- Biography.
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