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Sleuthing the Alamo
James E Crisp, 2005



I Send a Voice, Evelyn Eaton, Singing Dragon, 2012


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Sleuthing the Alamo
James E Crisp, 2005

On the face of it this book is about the Alamo and the Texas "Revolution" but it is much more than that. "Advance Praise" for the book which appears on the cover dwells on the "painstaking research" and the "secrets" revealed and "mysteries" solved. This makes the book a fascinating read but the real worth of the book is buried in the less verbose prose below where we are told it is "ideal for undergraduate courses in historical methodology", among numerous other possible key phrases for University students. For me the impact is twofold, both to do with how an historian uses evidence.

The more fundamental of the two perhaps is that although James Crisp has a professional concern for authenticity the quest for history does not stop there. Although this may seem obvious, having read many history books on the American West I have often been struck by the apparent lack of rigour in evaluating reliability and a corresponding reluctance to analyse in depth. All too often there seems a reluctance to challenge accepted ideas and merely to add more detail from a trawling through archives. Often this results in more detail rather than more understanding.

In many ways the more fascinating aspect of this outstanding book is the way in which not only history in general but the author's life in particular is evaluated, and how the two interrelate. The result is very revealing and shows how our personal experiences can help us in historical investigation if we let them. In our subject discipline an open mind is not an optional extra. In this sense, in many ways, despite revealing secrets and "solving" mysteries this book raises more questions than it answers. This is getting to the heart of what history is all about, being aware of its limitations and investigating with an approach which is open to question and debate. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was so engaging that I even shed a tear on the last page in relation to a family story which Crisp relates to make a point about how ideology - in this case racism - can be so insidious.

What is so interesting to me is that the parallels of racism in matters Mexican in Texas are so similar to matters native American throughout the United States. The dominant culture was unforgiving no matter with which minority culture it was interacting. It seems that at a time when immigrants from Europe were arriving in large numbers, devaluation of the cultures of indigenous peoples of native American, Mexican or African American origin became ideologically embedded in the country's institutions.






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urlhttp://www.nativeamerican.co.uk
Chris Smallbone January 2014

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