Texas on the Edge of Empire: The View from the Galveston Consulate, 1850-1899

Authors: Jason Ridgeway*, United States Military Academy
Topics: Historical Geography, Regional Geography, United States
Keywords: texas, long cycle, place, historical geography, regional geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For much of its history, Texas existed on the edges of empires. Although Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845, it simultaneously occupied a place on the periphery of the British Empire for most of the latter half of the nineteenth century. The annual reports of British consuls stationed in the port city of Galveston were important sources of information for British citizens seeking information about this peripheral space, but to date, no research has attempted to show how these British civil servants represented Texas as a place through their official reports. This paper examines the consular documents published between 1850 and 1899 through the lens of Modelski and Thompson's long cycle theory to understand how the consuls envisioned Texas and portrayed it to their constituencies in Great Britain. I find that the consuls painted Texas as a source of potential wealth based on its seemingly limitless agricultural opportunities, its possibilities as a source of raw materials, and as an entrepôt to Western trade. At the same time, the consuls clearly saw Texas as inferior to the British core: a place of inefficiency and lawlessness that was generally unfit for British immigrants. This analysis enhances our understanding of Texas's role as a peripheral region within the British Empire during the late nineteenth century, and it sets the stage for our examination of its transition to the American sphere of influence.

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