Preview a tantalizing chapter from a major history of Texas
‘They Came From the Sky’ makes the reader want more from Stephen Harrigan.
In 2013, the University of Texas Press announced an ambitious $1 million, 16-book project and accompanying website called the Texas Bookshelf. To be written by UT faculty, it is meant to explain the state’s culture and history in a comprehensive manner. Four years later, the project has produced its first pearl, “They Came From the Sky: The Spanish Arrive in Texas,” a handsomely produced chapter from author Stephen Harrigan’s narrative history of Texas that’s already underway. What’s the status of your contribution to the Bookshelf ?
Stephen Harrigan: My job is to write the sort of keystone volume, which is a soup-to-nuts history of Texas. I’ve written about 600 pages so far. It’s a dizzying project. The state of Texas, as you may have heard, is pretty big, and there’s a big history to go with every square inch of it.
The major challenge for me is to try not to be intimidated by how much story there is to tell, by the bewildering complexity of people and events that have created this place. It’s a lot of fun, but I spend half of every night lying awake thinking things like: “Wait, did I forget to mention all the villages along the lower Rio Grande that José de Escandón founded in the 1750s?” or “Is it OK if I just skip over a few of these kinda boring governors?” In dealing with the Native Americans and earliest Spanish excursions into what is now Texas, do they follow the patterns of such encounters in the rest of the New World?
Pretty much. It was a cataclysmic era turbocharged by a particularly Spanish combination of rapacity and religious idealism.
“They Came From the Sky” by Stephen Harrigan
Author Stephen Harrigan is working on a big narrative history of Texas.