The New Texas History

Stephen Harrigan’s myth-busting ‘Big Wonderful Thing’ prompts us to ask: Are Texans ready to remember the Alamo—and the Texas Rangers and the Civil War—differently?

Illustration by Joan Wong; Lamar: San Jacinto Museum of History Association

On paper and shorn of context, “Remember the Alamo” seems like an anodyne enough phrase—a bland reminder to not forget a historical event. But in practice, it has long been deployed as something more: a rallying cry. By telling and retelling the perhaps apocryphal stories of William B. Travis’s line in the sand and Davy Crockett’s last stand, Texans draw on tales of an old battle to fortify themselves as they wage other, newer battles. That’s the problem with the study of history: it’s one part magnifying glass, one part cudgel.

This collection of articles, inspired by the October 1 publication of Stephen Harrigan’s Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas—three chapters of which are excerpted here—suggest a truce, by asking us to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to look at the past, and that other interludes in our history are as worthy of attention as those few terrible days in 1836.

Remember the Alamo? Yes, of course. But let’s not stop there.


“I instinctively resist the ‘big picture idea’ of what Texas is.”

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