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History like that of Texas is rare. In its color, its dramatic movement, and its instructiveness when viewed from the standpoint of political and social science, it has few parallels. These characteristics make it well worth preservation and study. To the genuine Texan … one of the strongest motives to the cultivation of the subject will be found in his patriotism.
– George P. Garrison, 1897
– George P. Garrison, 1897
Founded as a private, nonprofit educational organization on March 2, 1897-the 61st anniversary of the Texas Declaration of Independence - the Texas State Historical Association has long been regarded as the nation's most dynamic regional history organization. Reinforced by more than one hundred years of scholarship and educational programs, its mission is to foster the appreciation, understanding, and teaching of the rich and unique history of Texas and, by example and through programs and activities, encourage and promote research, preservation, and publication of historical material affecting the state of Texas.
In June of 1897, the Association inaugurated publication of the Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, and fifteen years later the title was changed to the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, reflecting a need for additional content and recognizing the broader scope of Texas history. Appearing in 1918, Ephraim D. Adams’s British Diplomatic Correspondence concerning the Republic of Texas, 1838-1846 was the first book published under the TSHA imprint. In addition to publishing, the Association served as an instrumental force in the University of Texas’s acquisition of valuable historical materials such as the Bexar Archives (the records of Spanish and Mexican Texas) and the Austin Family Papers, both of which now reside in the Center for American History on campus. In 1912, the Association donated its book collection to the University of Texas, representing a cornerstone of the Texas Collection Library.
Today the Texas State Historical Association continues to pursue—in the words of Walter Muir Whitehill—the “actual doing of history,” from research, writing, and publications, to the strong programs that support teaching Texas history in the public school system. Founding TSHA president Oran M. Roberts, in his inaugural address, asserted that “any and everything that the people do or think, that tends to form habits of life, or to build up prevailing institutions affecting society, constitutes material for history.” It is under such principles of progressive integrity that the TSHA operates today, ensuring the vitality of Texas history for generations to come.
The Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Launched in 1897, the Quarterly is the oldest continuously published scholarly journal in Texas, presenting the latest research in Texas history to a vast audience of history lovers and scholars. On the average the Quarterly publishes sixteen articles per year, each of considerable historical significance and broad-based appeal. Primary sources, as well as edited and annotated historical documents, also appear on a regular basis. Special issues throughout the years have focused on distinguished themes, such as the history of the University of Texas at Austin, the sesquicentennial of Texas, the state Capitol, J. Frank Dobie and Walter Prescott Webb, and the Alamo. Articles in the Quarterly have won numerous individual awards, including the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the Western History Association. Subscriptions can be attained for the Quarterly on its own, or as a benefit of membership with the TSHA.
Specializing in books relating to Texas history, the TSHA publishes new titles as well as reprints of classic reserve volumes. The Association currently has more than one hundred books in print, including biographies, general histories, cartographic studies, and travel literature.
All TSHA books are submitted to rigorous peer review. In addition to new scholarly works, the Association publishes several book series on specific subjects in cooperation with organizations such as the Center for American History at UT Austin and the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University. The Association also has two endowed publications series: the Fred H. and Ella Mae Moore Texas History Reprint Series, focused on Texas history classics, and the Fred Rider Cotten Popular History Series, which consists primarily of monographs on historic sites such as the Alamo and San Jacinto.
Named after the ranching practice of keeping informed by “riding the fence line,” Riding Line is the newsletter of the Association. Riding Line is published quarterly and dedicated to news relating to the events, educational programs, and new publications of the Association. Members of the TSHA receive Riding Line as an additional benefit.
The Association’s Educational Department, established in 1939, seeks to encourage and advance the teaching of history—especially Texas history—in Texas schools. This division provides programs for students, teachers, and the general public.
The Junior Historians of Texas is an extracurricular organization dedicated to students in grades four through twelve. The Walter Prescott Webb Historical Society is the counterpart of the Junior Historians on the college level. Both organizations work through established school instructional programs, empowering students to discover, research, write, and share their intimate understanding of Texas history. The TSHA publishes two journals for student writings: the Texas Historian (for the Junior Historian program) and Touchstone (cosponsored by Lee College) for the Webb Society.
Texas History Day is a competition affiliated with the National History Day program that provides an opportunity for Texas, U.S., and world history students in grades six through twelve to demonstrate their comprehension of history through papers, projects, performances, video documentaries, and interpretive websites. As many as twenty thousand young Texans are involved in the program at the local, regional, and state level annually. More than eight hundred students compete in Texas History Day, and sixty or more students travel to National History Day each year as representatives of Texas.
Teacher training is another goal of the Association, focused principally on Texas educators at the elementary, secondary, and college levels. History Awareness Workshops are practical instructional conferences held at different times throughout the year that concentrate on new techniques of adding enrichment and relevance to the teaching of history. Hundreds of teachers each year attend sessions of these workshops.
Assembled each summer, the Heritage Travel Program is a one-week traveling seminar pertaining to specific subjects in Texas history. Traditionally targeting teachers only, this program was expanded in 2004 to involve a broader audience including the public at large.
Customarily held on the first weekend in March, the Annual Meeting of the TSHA offers more than thirty sessions on various aspects of Texas history to over six hundred historians and history enthusiasts in attendance. The meeting also incorporates a Texana auction, a large book exhibit, and award presentations for best article in the Quarterly, best published books on Texas, on women in Texas history, and on Texas history prior to 1900. Among the special events are the Women in Texas History luncheon and the induction of new Fellows, to honor historians distinguished by their research and writing. The location of the Annual Meeting alternates between Austin and various cities around the state.
Symposia & Other Events
Periodically, the TSHA sponsors other public programs relating to Texas history. While revising the New Handbook of Texas, for example, the Association sponsored symposia on religious topics, women’s studies, Mexican American studies, and African American studies, each designed to highlight the latest research and make it available for TSHA publications and educational programs. These events are open to the public. The association also works in cooperation with agencies such as the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Texas Historical Commission, and Humanities Texas to promote Texas history with events, programs, and publications.
The New Handbook of Texas
The New Handbook of Texas is a six-volume multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history, culture, and geography that provided a ready reference source for almost any historical question relating to Texas. First published as a two-volume set in 1952 and deemed by Walter Prescott Webb “the product of the combined literary genius and scholarly ability of the people of Texas,” the Handbook was revised and updated in a supplement in 1976, and then completely revised in 1996. This new edition, which is no longer in print, serves as the primary reference work on Texas history and provides a platform for further development of historical resources. The 23,640 articles contained in The New Handbook of Texas represent the efforts of more than 3,000 individuals working over a 14-year period. The Portable Handbook of Texas, published in 2000, offers the core content of The New Handbook of Texas in a one-volume format affordable for the general book-buying public.
Handbook of Texas Online
In 1999 The New Handbook of Texas became available online as a joint project of the Association and the University of Texas Libraries at UT Austin. The Handbook of Texas Online offers a full-text searchable version of the complete content of the six-volume print edition, as well as all corrections incorporated in the second printing, and approximately four hundred articles not included in the print edition. Since its creation, the online database has been continually corrected and updated, from the addition of hundreds of new articles to numerous browse-list guides designed to aid researchers with refined subject searches within the Handbook.
Additional Online Resources
Our Texas Day By Day feature highlights events associated with the history of Texas and provides a brief and often entertaining description of each occurrence, both as sidebars on our Web page and as daily e-mails delivered to subscribers. All stories are drawn from the Handbook of Texas Online, and each Texas Day By Day segment includes links to some of the Handbook's 25,000 articles. The popular Texas History Quizzes challenge readers to search the Handbook to find answers to questions focused on various themes in Texas history. Additionally, the My Texas feature creates a forum for individuals to share personal reminiscences about Texas history, using stories drawn from their own experiences or those passed down through oral tradition. TSHA editors match these stories with the scholarly narratives in the Handbook to create a people’s history of Texas unprecedented in its depth and richness. These online resources not only reach a much wider audience and provide increased avenues of communication with readers, but also allow the TSHA to provide supplemental tools designed to showcase the Handbook and advance it in innovative directions.