The Handbook of Texas project began in 1939 as an effort led by University of Texas Professor Walter Prescott Webb to preserve Texas history and create “the most useful book that has ever been published in Texas.” The TSHA was organized in Austin on March 2, 1897, and the Handbook began as two printed volumes in 1952, with a supplemental third volume in 1976. Twenty years later, the six-volume Handbook included 23,640 entries and 687 illustrations within 6,945 pages. The Handbook of Texas Online launched in February 1999 and was among the first digital encyclopedias accessible for free on the Internet to the general public. The Handbook consists of more than 27,000 overview, general, and biographical entries focused on the entire history of Texas from the indigenous Native Americans and the Prehistoric Era to the state’s diverse population and the Modern Age. These entries emphasize the role Texans played in state, national, and world history.
Handbook entries are written by volunteer historians and professionals, reviewed by TSHA staff, vetted by scholars, and approved by TSHA’s Chief Historian before appearing online. The development of new entries is driven by current events, user suggestions, and internal identification of missing topics, which are reviewed by the TSHA Chief Historian for consideration. Authors utilize secondary and primary sources such as books, census records, newspapers, military service records, obituaries, diaries, and letters to craft historically accurate entries. The sources are compiled into a bibliography and updated regularly to provide readers with the most current scholarship. The Handbook editors fact-check, copyedit, and format entries using appropriate language for users ranging from middle school to college.
Brett J. Derbes, Managing Editor, joined the Handbook of Texas staff in June 2015, but began working as an intern in 2011 on the Handbook of Civil War Texas project. He is primarily responsible for coordinating Handbook projects, assigning entries, updating and revising entries, eBook development, and promotion. He is a doctoral candidate at Auburn University, where he studies inmate labor at southern penitentiaries during the 19th Century.
Laurie E. Jasinski
Laurie E. Jasinski, Research Editor, has more than 20 years of experience with the Handbook of Texas. She worked on the six-volume New Handbook of Texas from 1988 through 1995 and later rejoined the Association in 2002 to assist in the completion of the Handbook of Texas Music. She eventually became project manager and editor for The Handbook of Texas Music, Second Edition (TSHA, 2012).
R. Matt Abigail
R. Matt Abigail, Assistant Editor, joined the Handbook of Texas staff in January 2014. He was first exposed to the Handbook while participating in a graduate research seminar taught by Chief Historian Mike Campbell at the University of North Texas and later contributed to the Handbook of African American Texas project as an author and fact checker in 2013. In addition to managing the content of Texas Day by Day, his primary focus has been the development of the Handbook of Tejano History.