Pre­view a tan­taliz­ing chap­ter from a ma­jor his­tory of Texas

‘They Came From the Sky’ makes the reader want more from Stephen Har­ri­gan.

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360LIFE - By Michael Barnes mbarnes@states­man.com

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

2016 AMERICANSTATESMAN

Au­thor Stephen Har­ri­gan is work­ing on a big nar­ra­tive his­tory of Texas.

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