History Department
History Department

Walter L. Buenger


ProfessorPh.D., 1979, Rice University

Summerlee Foundation Chair in Texas History and Barbara Stuart Centennial Professor in Texas History; Chief Historian, Texas State Historical Association
Walter L. Buenger

Contact

  • Phone: (512) 475-7214
  • Office: GAR 3.118
  • Office Hours: Fall 2018: Tue/Wed 11am-12:30pm & by appt.
  • Campus Mail Code: B7000

Biography


Walter L. Buenger was born and grew up in Ft. Stockton, Texas.  Both sides of his family told stories that stretched back to the Civil War, but his father’s German Texan relatives had a decidedly more jaundiced view of that conflict than his mother’s Anglo kin.  Those stories with their conflicting views of the past and his early years in the Trans-Pecos country gave him a lifelong interest in the nuanced history and varied cultures of the South and Southwest.  He left the Trans-Pecos for Houston and graduated from Rice University with a BA in 1973.   After earning a PhD from Rice he began teaching in the Department of History at Texas A&M University in 1979, and he remained at A&M until 2017 when he joined the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin.

Research Interests

Buenger has written or co-written four books, co-edited two more, and authored numerous articles and book chapters.  His main areas of interest have been the connections between Texas and the South, Texas identity, historiography, the role of memory, the influence of borders, and the construction and evolution of culture in the Southwest.  He is wrapping up a co-edited and extensively annotated version of the autobiography of William A. Trenckmann, a German language newspaperman and politician who was born in Texas in 1859 and died in Austin in 1935.  He is also writing a re-conceptualization of Texas and the Southwest with the tentative title, “Texas Since 1810:  Border Crossings and Shifting Identities over Time.” 

 

Courses


HIS 392 • Southwestern Borders

38415 • Fall 2020
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM GAR 0.120
(also listed as MAS 392)

Course Description:

 

Think of a borders approach to the past as a tool that can open up new ways of understanding the past.  This tool helps you see connections between people and places, and it helps you envision the networks that both bind together and separate groups.  It is simply a beginning point in understanding and a way to ask new questions and evaluate evidence.

 

One example of this approach is to examine how linguistic and cultural traits persist over time and how they change to fit new circumstances.  You might ask, for example, why the Comanche changed and did not change as they marketed more buffalo hides to European descent people.  The answer might lead you to examining changes in how they treated captives or the evolving role of women.  A borders approach is a window to the past that leads in many exciting directions.

 

This course focuses on two types of borders–borders between places and borders between groups.  Another way to phrase this is to say physical borders such as lines on the map and cultural borders such as religious differences or differences in myths and memories. It assumes that borders divided, united, and helped define both places and groups. It also assumes that borders were fluid, constructed, and reconstructed. 

 

The core area of the course includes places today called Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico, but the flow of goods, peoples, habits, cultures, and ideas to and from this core region includes movement north and south between the Southwest and Mexico, back and forth on the Atlantic, from and to the South, the Mid-continent, and the West of North America.

 

Thus the key groups included Indian peoples, Mexicans and Tejanos, Anglos, African Americans, and European ethnic groups such as German Texans or French Louisianans.  Groups and the borders between them also included such things as gender and class.  We will explore how each group helped define another, how, for example, white became not black.

 

This is a course then about borders between and within a region from roughly 1700 forward, and how those borders shaped and defined a region’s culture, economy, politics, and identity.  The goal is for all in the class to come to a working definition of this broader meaning and the impact of borders. It is a course meant to open up the historical imagination and equip you with a tool for research, writing, and thinking. Along the way it offers much about the history of the Southwest and its peoples.

HIS 320P • Texas, 1845-1914

38595 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM
CD HI

This course focuses on the basic history of Texas from roughly 1810 to 1920.  Emphasis will be given to how and why Texas and Texans changed over time.  Among the goals and objectives are for all students to understand how and why Texas was and was not like the regions and countries on its borders, what caused change or the absence of change, and what influenced the particular path to the 20th century of all Texans.  I expect you to attend class, do the readings, and move beyond a simple mastery of factual information.  It is my hope that by the end of the semester you will think and act like an historian by engaging in the debate about the past and by using primary source material, the ideas and insights of trained professional historians, and your own critical thinking skills to place your understanding of the Texas past on a firm foundation.  The readings and assignments in this course are designed to help you achieve these objectives by building skills as well as knowledge, and you will be graded not only on your mastery of basic factual information but on your ability to effectively organize and utilize that information. 

HIS 320P • Texas, 1845-1914

38130 • Fall 2019
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CAL 100
CD HI

This course focuses on the basic history of Texas from roughly 1810 to 1920.  Emphasis will be given to how and why Texas and Texans changed over time.  Among the goals and objectives are for all students to understand how and why Texas was and was not like the regions and countries on its borders, what caused change or the absence of change, and what influenced the particular path to the 20th century of all Texans.  I expect you to attend class, do the readings, and move beyond a simple mastery of factual information.  It is my hope that by the end of the semester you will think and act like an historian by engaging in the debate about the past and by using primary source material, the ideas and insights of trained professional historians, and your own critical thinking skills to place your understanding of the Texas past on a firm foundation.  The readings and assignments in this course are designed to help you achieve these objectives by building skills as well as knowledge, and you will be graded not only on your mastery of basic factual information but on your ability to effectively organize and utilize that information.

HIS 392 • Southwestern Borders

39465 • Fall 2018
Meets T 12:30PM-3:30PM GAR 1.122

 

 

HIS 320P • Texas, 1845-1914

38925 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BUR 130
CD HI

This course focuses on the basic history of Texas from roughly 1810 to 1920.  Emphasis will be given to how and why Texas and Texans changed over time.  Among the goals and objectives are for all students to understand how and why Texas was and was not like the regions and countries on its borders, what caused change or the absence of change, and what influenced the particular path to the 20th century of all Texans.  I expect you to attend class, do the readings, and move beyond a simple mastery of factual information.  It is my hope that by the end of the semester you will think and act like an historian by engaging in the debate about the past and by using primary source material, the ideas and insights of trained professional historians, and your own critical thinking skills to place your understanding of the Texas past on a firm foundation.  The readings and assignments in this course are designed to help you achieve these objectives by building skills as well as knowledge, and you will be graded not only on your mastery of basic factual information but on your ability to effectively organize and utilize that information.

Curriculum Vitae


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