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.