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In this biography, Randolph B. Campbell explores the life of Sam Houston and his important role in the development of the Southwest. Governor of two states, president of an independent republic, and for thirteen years a United States senator, Sam Houston forged a life of great adventure, frequent controversy, and lasting achievement. Within the historical context of the em In this biography, Randolph B. Campbell explores the life of Sam Houston and his important role in the development of the Southwest. Governor of two states, president of an independent republic, and for thirteen years a United States senator, Sam Houston forged a life of great adventure, frequent controversy, and lasting achievement. Within the historical context of the emerging West, Houston's story is not only one of courage and fortitude, but also aids in understanding of the possibilities and limitations of leadership in a Democratic society. The titles in the Library of American Biography Series make ideal supplements for American History Survey courses or other courses in American history where figures in history are explored. Paperback, brief, and inexpensive, each interpretive biography in this series focuses on a figure whose actions and ideas significantly influenced the course of American history and national life. In addition, each biography relates the life of its subject to the broader themes and developments of the times.


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In this biography, Randolph B. Campbell explores the life of Sam Houston and his important role in the development of the Southwest. Governor of two states, president of an independent republic, and for thirteen years a United States senator, Sam Houston forged a life of great adventure, frequent controversy, and lasting achievement. Within the historical context of the em In this biography, Randolph B. Campbell explores the life of Sam Houston and his important role in the development of the Southwest. Governor of two states, president of an independent republic, and for thirteen years a United States senator, Sam Houston forged a life of great adventure, frequent controversy, and lasting achievement. Within the historical context of the emerging West, Houston's story is not only one of courage and fortitude, but also aids in understanding of the possibilities and limitations of leadership in a Democratic society. The titles in the Library of American Biography Series make ideal supplements for American History Survey courses or other courses in American history where figures in history are explored. Paperback, brief, and inexpensive, each interpretive biography in this series focuses on a figure whose actions and ideas significantly influenced the course of American history and national life. In addition, each biography relates the life of its subject to the broader themes and developments of the times.

30 review for Sam Houston and the American Southwest

  1. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Hennig

    This was a required reading for my Texas History course but it was a great read! As someone who is only vaguely familiar with the work of Sam Houston, this book is a great introduction into the life and career that he lived. Although a little bit more of a simple summary of his career at times, I enjoyed diving into a less talked about politician that held a major impact on the American Southwest.

  2. 5 out of 5

    SpookySqueeek

    The low review for this isn't really fair. The thing is, it's not the kind of book I'd normally read, it was assigned for history class. I think if you enjoy American history, of specifically Texas history this is a great book. The low review for this isn't really fair. The thing is, it's not the kind of book I'd normally read, it was assigned for history class. I think if you enjoy American history, of specifically Texas history this is a great book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joey

    Any digging into the past dredges up shameful events and ideas. In 2020 this is especially true in the South. A mix of racism, cruelty, xenophobia, tribalism, and more is immediately obvious. That’s no secret. There are bright spots, though. People like Sam Houston remind us that even in dark times one has the ability to stand up for principles and humanity. Therefore, this book contains some hypertimely encouragement for summer 2020. The first lesson I took is that Houston did what he wanted to, Any digging into the past dredges up shameful events and ideas. In 2020 this is especially true in the South. A mix of racism, cruelty, xenophobia, tribalism, and more is immediately obvious. That’s no secret. There are bright spots, though. People like Sam Houston remind us that even in dark times one has the ability to stand up for principles and humanity. Therefore, this book contains some hypertimely encouragement for summer 2020. The first lesson I took is that Houston did what he wanted to, despite social norms. He didn’t take over his family business as a young man and instead moved west to forge his own trail. He befriended various First Nations when it was political poison. He defended peace when many Texians were literally herding others towards violence. The next major lesson I extracted from this biography is that you can take unpopular stances while remaining respected. Houston wasn’t lacking in ambition (he was, after all, the governor of TWO states). However, he wasn’t afraid to stand for things like peace, annexation, fighting the expansion of slavery in the US, and First Nations rights. Even though he made a habit of supporting unpopular views, he was still popular for much of his life. Leadership was thrust upon him as much as he sought it. People trusted in him as a person if not on every view. A final lesson is more nuanced: Good people aren’t perfect. No one is immune from having blind spots or character defects borne of the time and culture. Houston struggled with alcoholism for much of his young life and this led him to burn many bridges. (I’m not picking on alcoholics – we all know that the fallout from this disease can be ugly.) He cautioned the South to avoid fighting to expand slavery, but he did “own” slaves and saw the need to keep “his” humans in line. He sometimes spoke disparagingly of Mexicans. The cautionary lesson here I think is that we need to try and see beyond our context to ultimate good. Surely we’ll fail, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t obliged to live with integrity. Overall I appreciated reading this short and accessible book in 2020. It’s good to remember to stand up for what we believe in. We’ll either bring people along with us, agitate enough to temper otherwise more damaging policies, or at least live authentically.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shane Westfall

    The history of the American West is often overshadowed by the romantic mythology surrounding the era. It would be hard to ignore the influence of Sam Houston on many aspects of American history from Tennessee to Washington and of course, his adopted home of Texas. Campbell seems to fall into the trap of many biographers and veer off the course of serious historian, presenting us instead with an easy to read novel presenting his hero as larger than life. The life of Sam Houston does lend itself The history of the American West is often overshadowed by the romantic mythology surrounding the era. It would be hard to ignore the influence of Sam Houston on many aspects of American history from Tennessee to Washington and of course, his adopted home of Texas. Campbell seems to fall into the trap of many biographers and veer off the course of serious historian, presenting us instead with an easy to read novel presenting his hero as larger than life. The life of Sam Houston does lend itself to glorification rather easily. Many of the events he was involved in do seem larger than life, yet Houston was by all accounts a complex and controversial man. Campbell seems content to gloss over his flaws. As he states in his hasty conclusion, “Sam Houston’s personal shortcomings, especially his years of heavy drinking, became legendary during his lifetime, but strengths of character and mind more than compensated for his weakness.” This leaves the reader with a very incomplete picture of Houston. Campbell presents Houston as the perennial comeback kid yet brushes over his responsibility for his constant falls, leaving an image of a man inexplicably persecuted. The New Western History movement may have many flaws in its approach. It can at times strive so hard to focus of the overlooked aspects of existing historiography that is misses the big picture. Campbell’s volume, however illustrates the need for a more inclusive approach. The Mexicans in his story are presented as simplistic foes to be vanquished by our hero. His wives are similarly presented as cardboard Hollywood cutouts. Women have been ignored often in history due to a lack of primary resources. There is more than enough information regarding Margaret Lea to fill in the story a bit, yet despite listing William Seale’s biography of her in his source notes, he leaves her to play the role of the angel who descends to save Sam’s soul and sobriety. Perhaps Campbell’s most significant contribution to Western historiography with this volume is regarding the debate of what to do with Texas. Texans cling do their place in Western history, despite the geographic realities of being a Southern state. As the author describes the early Anglo settlement of the state, one can certainly feel Turner’s frontier thesis at work. There was the classic Turnerian frontier line and our story revolves around the events that surround these men as they attempt to change the land while conquering the Spanish/Mexicans and controlling the restless natives. He later describes the struggle Texans and Houston face with later uprisings by Native Americans bringing to mind what Ty Cashion points out, “The very un-southern tradition of fighting Plains Indians was already established by the time the state’s Republic era ended.” , Campbell does a wonderful job of presenting the achievements of this pivotal figure in American history. He succeeds in making this story an easy to read page-turner, drawing the reader in to the events at hand. Where he fails is presenting only one side of a controversial man involved in complex events. One should expect more from a biography. It should inform the reader of multiple sides of the man and the issues. Despite being compelling to read, Campbell comes across as a modern Stuart N. Lake presenting us with a cross between a movie script and propaganda. He does however strengthen the case for the place Texas holds in Western History earning the volume some place in Western Historiography

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

    I read Sam Houston and the American Southwest for two reasons: 1. I’m still working on my personal project of reading and learning more about the literature and history of my state. 2. My wife owned this book when we married, and somehow, as books do, the image of its cover just kept hanging around in the back of my mind until I’d read it. So, I read it and really enjoyed it quite a bit. Growing up in Texas, I was, of course, exposed to some basic facts about Houston’s personal history and his ac I read Sam Houston and the American Southwest for two reasons: 1. I’m still working on my personal project of reading and learning more about the literature and history of my state. 2. My wife owned this book when we married, and somehow, as books do, the image of its cover just kept hanging around in the back of my mind until I’d read it. So, I read it and really enjoyed it quite a bit. Growing up in Texas, I was, of course, exposed to some basic facts about Houston’s personal history and his achievements, and these were delivered with an obviously hagiographical slant. I enjoyed this biography because it went beyond the mere outline of history to which I’d previously been exposed and really filled in some of the gaps that have existed in my knowledge of Houston and of Texas’s founding. Also, I was pleased that, even though Campbell clearly admires Houston, his Houston is no mythic Texas legend but is a real person, grounded in reality. I guess the main pleasure of the book is that Houston does stand out for being a remarkable person. The book could have been subtitled “The Sane Texan.” Over and over--as Houston has to keep Texan hotheads from invading Mexico, has to hold off politicians from executing Santa Anna (and thereby eliminating their one bit of leverage), has to try to protect Indian interests from the settlers who would always ignore them, has to try to keep the United States and Texas out of the Civil War--Houston comes across as being a person of rare honesty, modesty, foresightedness, and integrity. The other leaders of early Texas, certainly, come across in this book as mean-spirited and bumbling fools compared to Houston. The limitation of this biography is certainly its narrow scope. Sam Houston and the Southwest is obviously intended to serve the purpose of introducing student readers (I’d expect high school students and college undergraduates) to Houston in an accessible way. It is, therefore, short and focuses on his political, rather than his personal, life. I thought that the book was competently written for its purpose, and I think that I will be searching out a fuller biography of Houston in the future.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Howard Brooks

    This is a very good survey of Houston's life including his early life in Tennessee, his transition to Texas, and his participation in the struggles for independence from Mexico and eventual annexation with the United States. Trivia: Houston is the only person to serve as Governors of two U.S. states (Tennessee and Texas). This is a very good survey of Houston's life including his early life in Tennessee, his transition to Texas, and his participation in the struggles for independence from Mexico and eventual annexation with the United States. Trivia: Houston is the only person to serve as Governors of two U.S. states (Tennessee and Texas).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Clear, readable, straightforward biography, but one without much methodological interest and the author's fawning over Houston grows tiresome. Still a good intro to Texas independence, annexation and Houston himself. Clear, readable, straightforward biography, but one without much methodological interest and the author's fawning over Houston grows tiresome. Still a good intro to Texas independence, annexation and Houston himself.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Madison

    good story about Sam Houston's life. I like him. good story about Sam Houston's life. I like him.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alec Norman

  10. 4 out of 5

    Holly Noel

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alexa King

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Lusk

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robert Brooks

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jo LeGare

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sammy

    I had to read this for class, but it was not that bad.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Hill

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cole Male

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amber-Laine

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mollie Garitty

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jason Glova

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eliodoro Dominguez

  25. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex Raines

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sak Teodoro

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shelby K

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marissa Swope

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