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Strengths - Texas History
The Bexar Archives
The Bexar Archives are the official Spanish documents that preserve the political, military, economic, and social life of the Spanish province of Texas and the Mexican state of Coahuila y Texas. Both in their volume and breadth of subject matter, the Bexar Archives are the single most important source for the history of Hispanic Texas up to 1836.
The Archives, housed at the University of Texas for more than a century, consist of approximately 300,000 pages of diplomatic, military, religious, and other manuscript and printed records of the Spanish colonial province of Texas from 1717 to 1821 (the area encompassing the present Mexican state of Coahuila, all of Texas, and a portion of Louisiana including the town of Natchitoches) and the Mexican District of Bexar (the area from the Nueces to the Sabine rivers, including the Texas towns of Anahuac, Brazoria, Velasco, Copano, Goliad, Gonzalez, and Nacogdoches) from 1822 to 1836.
The Bexar Archives reflect the growth and development of Spanish Texas and Mexican Texas. Earlier documents deal with the affairs of settlers from the Canary Islands, and relations between the military, civil, and missionary communities that constituted San Antonio. Major topics during the eighteenth century include Indian policy and relations, military affairs, cattle raising, trade, legal proceedings, and exploration and communications. After 1803, the documentation also reflects a growing Anglo-American presence in the area, the development of trade and colonization, and currents of political unrest and revolution. As the affairs of Texas and the region grew in complexity, so does the volume of documentation in the Bexar Archives. Fully half of the collection represents the Mexican period (1821 to 1836).
The University of Texas received the Bexar Archives in 1899, when an official act of the Bexar County Commissioners Court transferred the archives to the University’s possession. All local land title records were removed before the Archives were transferred to the University, and remain with the Bexar County Clerk. The archives became a cornerstone of the Barker Texas History Collections, part of what is now the Briscoe Center for American History.
On behalf of the University, the Briscoe Center has improved and enhanced the Archives well beyond the original requirements of the gift, including microfilming every document in the collection, publishing an extensive index of proper names in the Archive, and digitizing several thousand pages for access on the web. The Bexar Archives Online is an innovative web-based resource that features over 5,000 original documents (23,000 pages) that have been digitized from microfilm. Researchers may browse, by year, the originals and translations, or compare an original and its translation side-by-side. Full-text searching of the translations is also supported. The project received TexTreasures grants in 2009, 2010, and 2011, with funding from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Researchers can access the original documents in the Briscoe Center’s Reading Room on the University of Texas at Austin campus. The typescript translations are also available in the reading room, and bound translations of each volume are available via the Bexar County Clerk’s office. On microfilm, 201 volumes of translations are available at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as more than 20 libraries across the Unites States. Additional volumes of translations not on microfilm are available in the Briscoe Center reading room.
Since much of the original order of the Bexar Archives had been disturbed over the years, University of Texas librarians and historians arranged all the documents–whether provincial, municipal, military, or private–into chronological order in the following series:
1. Coahuila y Texas Official Publications, 1826–1835
2. General Governmental Publications, 1730–1836
3. Non-governmental Publications, 1778, 1811–1836
4. General Manuscript Series, 1717–1836
5. Undated and Undated Fragments