The secession of Texas from Mexico was a dry run for the slaveholder’s republic of the Confederate States of America, argues Andrew Torget
in Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850
(University of North Carolina Press, 2015). Torget, the University Distinguished Teaching Professor of history at the University of North Texas (and the Guinness World Record holder for longest history lesson), covers a pivotal swath of history in the American southwest. During the antebellum period, the Texas borderlands transitioned from Comanche, to Mexican, to Texan, to American territory. Slavery, Torget argues, was a crucial political and social institution each step of the way, and acted as a wedge which drove the United States apart and into Civil War. The region’s unique climate made plantation cotton cultivation profitable, and in turn shaped the history of an entire continent. Seeds of Empire won several awards in 2016, including the David J. Weber – Clements Center for Best Non-fiction Book on Southwestern America from the Western History Association.
Stephen Hausmann is an Assistant Professor of US History at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. He teaches courses on modern US history, environmental history, and Indigenous history and is currently working on his book manuscript, an environmental history of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.