The Southwest Review, a quarterly journal of literature, the arts, and public affairs, is a continuation of the Texas Review, which was published in 1915 at the University of Texas by Stark Young and edited for more than eight years by Robert Adger Law of the university faculty. In 1924 the magazine, renamed the Southwest Review, was transferred to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, by Jay B. Hubbell and George Bond, who served as joint editors until 1927. For the next fifteen years the central figure of the editorial board was John H. McGinnis, professor of English at Southern Methodist University, who was assisted by younger colleagues and advanced students including Henry Nash Smith, Lon Tinkle, John Chapman, Allen Maxwell, and S. D. Myres, Jr. During much of this time Herbert P. Gambrell of the Southern Methodist University history department served as business manager. Later this function was taken over by Wiggs N. Babb of the Southern Methodist University business office. When McGinnis withdrew from the editorial staff of the Review in 1942, Donald Day took over the editorship under the direction of an editorial board. With the winter 1945 issue, George Bond became co-editor with Day. They were replaced in the spring 1946 issue by Allen Maxwell. From 1932 to 1935 Louisiana State University assumed joint responsibility with Southern Methodist University for the Southwest Review, and Charles W. Pipkin and William A. Read of the Louisiana faculty joined McGinnis, Myres, and Smith on the editorial board of five members. This arrangement came to an end when Louisiana State University established the Southern Review.
Whereas the Texas Review had generally followed a policy of cosmopolitanism, the Southwest Review emphasized the region. Among the Texas writers who contributed significantly to the magazine are Sam Hanna Acheson, John Avery Lomax, and John Chapman of Dallas; Mody Coggin Boatright and J. Frank Dobie of Austin; and Karle Wilson Baker of Nacogdoches. Other important southwestern contributors have been Mary Austin and Paul Horgan of New Mexico, and Stanley Vestal of Oklahoma. The Review consistently gave attention to southwestern painting in articles by Jerry Bywaters, Alexandre Hogue, and others; and during the 1930s David Reichard Williams, O'Neil Ford, and A. B. Swank explored the possibilities of developing a native regional style of contemporary building. Professor Samuel Wood Geiser of Southern Methodist University wrote a series of twelve biographical essays on pioneer Texas scientists, which appeared in the magazine from 1929 to 1937, and was eventually developed into the first book published by the University Press in Dallas-Geiser's Naturalists of the Frontier (1938). The Southwest Review, the oldest magazine of its kind in its area, has exerted a far-reaching influence upon the cultural and intellectual development of the region.
Allen Maxwell edited the Review between 1945 and 1963, and Margaret Hartley was editor from 1962 until 1982. In 1984 the university returned editorial responsibility to faculty members for the first time in forty years. The magazine was redesigned in 1985. Willard Spiegelman, the editor, and Betsey McDougall, the managing editor, announced a new focus on literary and cultural issues of more universal appeal. This approach continued under their leadership in 1994. New contributors have included Quentin Bell, Amy Clampitt, Margaret Drabble, Natalia Ginzburg, James Merrill, Iris Murdoch, Howard Nemerov, and Edmund White. Even in earlier days, however, the Review published the essays of Albert Guérard (between 1916 and 1959); other early contributors included Maxim Gorky, Cleanth Brooks, and Robert Penn Warren. In 1992 the Review established the Margaret L. Hartley Memorial Fund in honor of its past contributor and editor. The fund was set up to ensure the continuation of the journal and to administer the Hartley Prize for contributions to the journal by a minority writer. In 1993–94 the Review was supported by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts; it had a circulation of 1,500.