Mapping and Empire: Soldier-Engineers on the Southwestern Frontier

Overview

From the sixteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, Spain, then Mexico, and finally the United States took ownership of the land from the Gulf Coast of Texas and Mexico to the Pacific Coast of Alta and Baja California?today's American Southwest. Each country faced the challenge of holding on to territory that was poorly known and sparsely settled, and each responded by sending out military mapping expeditions to set boundaries and chart topographical features. All three countries recognized that turning ...

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Mapping and Empire: Soldier-Engineers on the Southwestern Frontier

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Overview

From the sixteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, Spain, then Mexico, and finally the United States took ownership of the land from the Gulf Coast of Texas and Mexico to the Pacific Coast of Alta and Baja California—today's American Southwest. Each country faced the challenge of holding on to territory that was poorly known and sparsely settled, and each responded by sending out military mapping expeditions to set boundaries and chart topographical features. All three countries recognized that turning terra incognita into clearly delineated political units was a key step in empire building, as vital to their national interest as the activities of the missionaries, civilian officials, settlers, and adventurers who followed in the footsteps of the soldier-engineers.

With essays by eight leading historians, this book offers the most current and comprehensive overview of the processes by which Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. soldier-engineers mapped the southwestern frontier, as well as the local and even geopolitical consequences of their mapping. Three essays focus on Spanish efforts to map the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, to chart the inland Southwest, and to define and defend its boundaries against English, French, Russian, and American incursions. Subsequent essays investigate the role that mapping played both in Mexico's attempts to maintain control of its northern territory and in the United States' push to expand its political boundary to the Pacific Ocean. The concluding essay draws connections between mapping in the Southwest and the geopolitical history of the Americas and Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas - Maeve Tynan
Mapping and Empire provides a fascinating investigation into the role of cartography in empire building, both as a method of delineating territorial holdings and of maintaining control over them. This book is a major contribution both to American history as a whole and to the cartographic history of the Greater Southwest.
Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas
Mapping and Empire provides a fascinating investigation into the role of cartography in empire building, both as a method of delineating territorial holdings and of maintaining control over them. This book is a major contribution both to American history as a whole and to the cartographic history of the Greater Southwest.
— Maeve Tynan, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292726161
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 12/19/2014
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

DENNIS REINHARTZ is Professor of History and Russian at the University of Texas at Arlington.

GERALD D. SAXON is Dean of Libraries at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Richard V. Francaviglia
1. Spanish Maritime Charting of the Gulf of Mexico and the California Coast
W. Michael Mathes
2. Spanish Military Engineers in the New World before 1750
David Buisseret
3. Spanish Military Mapping of the Northern Borderlands after 1750
Dennis Reinhartz
4. U.S. Army Military Mapping of the American Southwest during the Nineteenth Century
Ralph E. Ehrenberg
5. Henry Washington Benham: A U.S. Army Engineer's View of the U.S.-Mexican War
Gerald D. Saxon
6. Trabajos Desconocidos, Ingenieros Olvidados: Unknown Works and Forgotten Engineers of the Mexican Boundary Commission
Paula Rebert
7. Soldier-Engineers in the Geographic Understanding of the Southwestern Frontier--An Afterthought
John R. Hébert
List of Contributors
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    Spanish, Mexican, and American soldier-explorers of the Southwest

    Spanish, Mexican, and American military engineers played an especially important role in mapping the area of the American Southwest along the U.S.-Mexican border. Not only was this area sparsely populated and rugged, but marking boundaries was a part of the broader contest and eventual war between Mexico and the United States over which territory belonged to which nation. As the government-directed work of the American military engineers is better-known because of the greater resources and procedures in recording the work and preserving the documents, the better--but not overwhelming--part of the seven articles containing copies or parts of maps and some prints of the period cover the work of the early Spanish and later Mexican mapmakers. One of the chapter titles is 'Unknown Works and Forgotten Engineers of the Mexican Boundary Commission,' a joint U.S.-Mexican Commission after the Mexican War relating the work of the largely forgotten Mexican participants. Inherent in these accounts of the explorations, individuals, purposes, and controversies surrounding the maps by academics from the fields of cartography and the history of the region is considerable material from a new angle on historical Mexican-American relations and the early days of the expansion of the U. S. in the Southwest.

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