The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

of the accused at Gainesville. It should form an integral part of any
future attempts to recreate the events in Cooke County in 1862 and
to place them in the context of the whole experience of the Civil War
in the United States.
University of Texas at Austin RICHARD B. MCCASLIN
Water in the Hispanic Southwest: A Social and Legal History, 1550-
1850. By Michael C. Meyer. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press,
1984. Preface, maps, illustrations, notes, index, bibliography. $26.)
In the last several decades a growing contingent of southwestern
historians has exercised its research skills in the service of litigation
dependent on expert-witness testimony. Preservation, land, and water
cases in the courts have stimulated enlarged and new investigations
into Spanish and Mexican law in the Southwest. For the most part, the
benefits of these studies have redounded to the courts and litigants;
little has been published for the enlightenment of the historical pro-
fession or the general reader.
Michael C. Meyer testified in the celebrated case New Mexico v.
Aamodt, which owes part of its distinction to its being the twelfth
oldest litigation in the federal judiciary (and the Aamodt case is still
in court). From that experience, Meyer writes, he was prompted to
write Water in the Hispanic Southwest. The celebrity of the Aamodt
case is now enhanced by the case's role in stimulating publication
of this judicious and masterful treatment of a complicated and im-
portant subject of southwestern history.
In fewer than two hundred pages, Meyer deftly exposes the more and
less obvious points about the historical importance of water. He makes
the argument (that only the foolish might challenge) that the naturally
arid environment has been a major determinant of both Indian and
Hispanic settlement in the Southwest. Meyer elaborates on the basic
practical necessity of water for all life forms by referring to the social
and cultural implications of water use and availability to both Span-
ish and Indian societies in northern New Spain.
The purpose of the book is an ambitious one: "uncovering the role
of water in the series of historical processes which gave the Hispanic
Southwest its unique regional character" (p. xi). All things con-
sidered-lofty intentions, complicated material, scattered sources, and
a 3oo-year period-Meyer has covered an impressive distance on a long
and winding road. Necessarily his book is a survey, but his generaliza-
tions are buttressed by a compendium of specifics in the text and notes.


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed February 11, 2016.