That is a fair question. Since you made it this far I suppose you deserve an explanation. While I am certainly here for everyone’s amusement, there is a more specific reason for this blog. I am a historian of the Gilded Age/ Progressive Era (with a smattering of the Reconstruction). My work focuses on how the United States federal government first began enforcing the border with Mexico and why. The answers to those questions, and many more, are not as simple or as obvious as they sound. The border was not always a concern of the federal government, not until after the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. While there was certainly activity and many vibrant cultures along the border before that, for me the story begins in earnest in 1894 with the establishment of the first border stations in El Paso, Texas and Nogales, Arizona.
That is not where my research begins, of course. All stories have prologues and the story of federal border enforcement is no different. For my purposes the story begins in the 1820s with the Texas Rangers, winds its way through Texas independence, the U.S. war with Mexico, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and Progressivism. All of those events and eras left imprints along the border and the border, in turn, imprinted itself on the history of the United States. The history of border enforcement is a long, complicated, nuanced story that involves race, citizenship, belonging, and the growth of federal white supremacy, not only along the border, but throughout the country. The border is a reflection of not only who we are, but why we are who we are and how we got here. The reflection of the nation can be seen in the shimmering sunlight bouncing of the southwestern desert.
What this all means is that I have a complicated story to tell, one that digs deeper than my dissertation. Turning that dissertation into a book will be a new experience for me. I decided that a blog would be the best way for me to sort out my thoughts, to throw out ideas and concepts that may or may not work. Along the way I will also tell the story of the history of enforcing the border with Mexico, looking at motivations, not only of immigrants looking to enter the the United States, but also of federal agencies attempting to prevent that from happening, and of politicians capitalizing on fear, paranoia, and white fragility. Each blog entry will likely have two sections, the first will be history, the story itself, narratives, and, lessons to be learned. The second will be my process, how I decided what to leave in, what to leave out, and the mechanics of writing a book. I will post some of the primary documents I am using.(There will also be the occasional foray into the world of academia, my professional journey. That promises to be…interesting.) All this means that you, the reader (my new favorite person), will learn a whole lot about the border between 1894 and 1924.
I would like to say you will learn a lot about the historical process, but all I can promise is that you will learn a lot about my process, what’s going on inside my head. If you are here for broad proclamations about the sweep of human history, this not the place. In fact, if you want insight into the United States before the 19th century also probably not the place. I am quite comfortable staying in my own lane, driving a bit over the speed limit, and only occasionally veering off into tangentially related areas. But I will always find my way back to my lane.
Jim Dupree: proudly staying in his own historical lane since 2013.