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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996

Book Reviews

appropriate drawings and tables, the study is indeed "unique in shipwreck litera-
ture" (p. 223).
Spanish Expeditions into Texas, I689-1768. By William Foster. (Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1995. Pp. x+339. Preface, introduction, notes, appendices,
bibliography, index. ISBN 0-292-72488-8. $45.00.)
Diaries of the early Spanish expeditions into Texas are among the most valu-
able documents of Texas history. They give the first view of the state's landscape,
geography, and natural resources, and provide important keys to the homelands
and movements of Texas's native peoples. Although many diaries have been
published individually and many routes have been analyzed, Foster's book pre-
sents a comprehensive look at the eleven expeditions that crossed the Rio
Grande between 1689 and 1768. Frustrated by the "widely different projections
of the routes" (p. 6) offered by previous researchers, Foster set out to "track as
precisely as possible the route followed on each of the eleven expeditions" (p.
7). His methodology is sound, although it would have benefited from greater at-
tention to archeological data. Where possible, he used multiple accounts of the
same expedition. When available, he consulted both manuscript and published
transcripts of documents. Foster then armed himself with a variety of modern
aerial, topographic, and highway maps to project individual routes-some of
which were apparently field-inspected. The result is a readable comparison of
the similarities and differences between the routes that also details the flora, fau-
na, and native peoples encountered.
Each chapter focuses on a single expedition, discusses previous route projec-
tions, and closes with a useful table of the dates, distances, direction, and camp-
sites occupied. There are three important appendices on the wildlife, flora, and
Indian tribes recorded in the diaries, and one on the epidemic diseases that rav-
aged native populations prior to 1768. Like the body of the book, the compara-
tive nature of this information provides excellent data for future research.
Despite the book's strong points, it has two major difficulties. First, through-
out the book, Foster is highly critical of previous route projections. Therefore,
one expects to find a thorough discussion demonstrating how he arrived at his
own projections. That discussion is not, however, consistently provided. For ex-
ample, what data led to his projection of Alarc6n's 1718 movement from the
vicinity of Columbus to the junction of the Brazos and Little Brazos Rivers? Fos-
ter may be correct, but the reader is not informed why this projection should be
preferred over other possible projections. Given his continual laments over the
flaws of others, his failure to provide such detail reduces the effectiveness of his
own projections. The second difficulty is Foster's focus on Central, South, and
coastal Texas. Movement beyond these regions to East Texas or to the Presidio
San Sabi receives at best cursory description, and is frequently missing from his
route projection maps. Since those regions were also part of Texas, it is not clear
why they are not given equal treatment.



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 1, 2016.

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