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Texas | Features | Books

Single Star of the West:
The Republic of Texas, 1836-1845.

Edited by Kenneth W. Howell and Charles Swanlund

(Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2017 )
Pages 550. Illustrated. . Hardcover, $34.95.
ISBN: 978-1-57441-671-8

Review by Dr. Kirk Bane
Surprisingly, authors have tended to ignore the turbulent, adventure-rich Republic of Texas era. Countless publications exist on such Lone Star topics as the Spanish mission system, the revolution against Mexico, the cattle trails, and the state's oil industry, but scholarly studies of Texas' national period are conspicuously lacking. In this valuable and welcome anthology, comprised of an insightful introduction and sixteen solidly researched and informative essays, Kenneth W. Howell and Charles Swanlund have taken great strides in rectifying this problem. They divide their volume into four sections: "The Birth of a Republic," "Defending the Republic," "Politics and Economics in the Republic," and "Social and Cultural Vistas."

The editors have recruited an impressive group of scholars for this project, including Alwyn Barr (Texas Tech University), Walter Buenger (Texas A&M University), James Crisp (North Carolina State University), Chip Dawson (Texas A&M University), Francis Galan (Texas A&M University-San Antonio), Jody Ginn (independent scholar), Bruce Glasrud (Sul Ross State University), James Haley (independent scholar), Gary Joiner (Louisiana State University-Shreveport), Mary Scheer (Lamar University), Paul Spellman (Wharton County Junior College), Ken Stevens (Texas Christian University), John Storey (Lamar University), Harold Weiss (Jamestown Community College), and Bruce Winders (Historian and Curator, the Alamo). These contributors ably address such topics as the army and navy, the Rangers, diplomacy, religion, women, Tejanos, Indians, African Americans, foreign-born immigrants, the Republic's three elected presidents (Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar, and Anson Jones), and the creation of a Texas identity during this key period. The Republic, a "complex, heterogeneous society…a confluence of cultures… that struggled to survive as an independent nation," lasted for almost a decade before joining the United States in 1845.

One of the editors' chief objectives in producing this book is to spark additional research in this neglected era. Hopefully, they assert, their "volume will inspire new scholarly interest in this fascinating period of Texas history, leading to more in-depth analysis of the people who struggled to survive in this fledgling nation." Undoubtedly, Single Star of the West, a truly commendable effort, will achieve this goal.

Students of the Lone Star heritage, whether academic or lay historian, should add this work to their collection. In sum, Howell, Swanlund, and their team have made a significant contribution to the historiography of the Texas Republic.


Review by Kirk Bane, Ph.D.
Managing Editor, Central Texas Studies
May 2, 2017


Disclosure: I have a close working relationship with both Howell and Swanlund, my confreres at Blinn College-Bryan.
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