Inventing Texas: Early Historians of the Lone Star State

By Laura Lyons McLemore | Go to book overview

7 Conclusion

If, as some modern historians have charged, Texas history has resisted generational revisions, can we find an explanation in the study of nineteenthcentury 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 confront the future of the state,” which might be logical were it not that this explanation omits so many Texans.1 What seems prominently lacking in such reasoning is any analysis of the origins and meaning of these “romances” that would-be revisionists call popular myths. Revisionists have called for some attempt at understanding the origins of these myths and the way that previous generations looked at the past.2

What are the myths to which modern historians refer and to which traditionalists claim Texans owe their identity? Critical review of histories of Texas written between 1789 and 1899 reveals several recurring themes that have been identified by Texas scholars and folklorists. Familiar to most Texans is the portrayal of Texas as the Promised Land, the New Eden, “the land of beginning again.” The Texas creation myth of a great nation “born in blood” centers around the Alamo and its defenders and elevates the Davy Crockett–type Texas hero, a rugged individualist who is solitary, homespun, and proficient in wilderness survival, use of firearms, and the spinning of tall tales, and triumphant without benefit of formal education. Related in many respects are a whole cluster of myths, including manifest destiny, racial superiority of the Anglo-American settlers, and the interpretation of both the Texas Revolution and the Indian wars as extensions of the apocalyptic battle between good and evil. These myths supported the concept that Protestantism was right and uniquely privileged and qualified to dictate values to all society—justifying materialism, Darwinism, and political, racial, and religious bigotry. Some of the myths that have entwined themselves in Texan historical consciousness present conflicting interpretations. One of the most prominent examples is

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Inventing Texas: Early Historians of the Lone Star State
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Inventing Texas i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1- Prologue - Historians of Spanish Texas 11
  • 2- Texas Historians and the Romantic Revolution 18
  • 3- Texas Historians and the Rise of the Lone Star 41
  • 4- Pride Goeth … before a Fall - History Writing in Antebellum Texas 59
  • 5- Lost Cause - Texas History, 1860–80 71
  • 6- Every Texan An Historian 81
  • 7- Conclusion 94
  • Notes 101
  • Bibliography 115
  • Index 125
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