Sweeping history of the outsized state and its bellwether politics.
Texas’s past and present can fairly be characterized as a series of land grabs: the Caddo and Comanches stole it from the Karankawa and other native peoples, the Spanish from the Caddo and Comanches, the Americans from the Spanish. A sovereign nation following the Americano rebellion against Santa Anna before being annexed to the US, Texas has long nursed an independent streak; so vast and remote are portions of the state that news of the Union victory in the Civil War did not reach slaves until well after hostilities had ended, and this geographical distance has furthered ideas of separateness. For all that, writes Campbell (History/Univ. of North Texas), Texas today has “an economy more like that of the United States as a whole than ever in its history,” as well as a diverse society—and an ever-changing one at that, such that Hispanics will regain demographic majority status within the next 20 to 40 years. Texans, Campbell writes, have long been politically conservative, though not a great deal more today than most Americans; the same struggles went on there as in other states on poll taxes, prohibition, and desegregation, fought by the same progressive and right-wing elements. Its leaders have been similarly conservative, from the aristocratic Stephen Austin to the faux-bumpkin Pappy O’Daniel (caricatured—and to judge by Campbell’s account, not too wide of the mark—in the recent film O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and on to George Bush, who as governor did for the state what he has lately been doing as president for the US with tort reform, relaxed regulations on handguns, and the dismantling of various portions of the welfare state, failing “only in his proposals for tax reform, but few Texans regarded that as a pressing issue anyhow.”
A well-written survey, rather less entertaining than T.R. Fehrenbach’s now-standard Lone Star, but meatier, too.