The recorded history of Texas begins with the arrival of the first Spanish conquistadors in the region of North America now known as Texas in 1519, who found the region occupied by numerous Native American tribes. The Native Americans’ ancestors had been there for more than 10,000 years as evidenced by the discovery of the remains of prehistoric Leanderthal Lady. During the period of recorded history from A.D. 1519 to 1848, all or parts of Texas were claimed by five countries: France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States of America.
The first European base was established in 1680, along the upper Rio Grande river, near modern El Paso, Texas with the exiled Spaniards and Native Americans from the Isleta Pueblo during the Pueblo Revolt, also known as Popé’s Rebellion, from today’s northern New Mexico. In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687), established a French colony at Fort Saint Louis, after sailing down and exploring the Mississippi River from New France (modern Canada) and the Great Lakes. He planted this early French presence at Fort Saint Louis near Matagorda Bay, along the Gulf of Mexico coast (near modern Inez, Texas), even before the establishment of New Orleans on the lower Mississippi River. The colony was killed off by Native Americans after three years, but Spanish authorities felt pressed to establish settlements to keep their claim to the land. Several Roman Catholic missions were established in East Texas; they were abandoned in 1691. Twenty years later, concerned with the continued French presence in neighboring Louisiana, Spanish authorities again tried to colonize Texas. Over the next 110 years, Spain established numerous villages, presidios, and missions in the province. A small number of Spanish settlers arrived, in addition to missionaries and soldiers. Spain signed agreements with colonizers from the United States, bordering the province to the northeast ever since their Louisiana Purchase from Emperor Napoleon I and his French Empire (France) in 1803. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexican Texas was part of the new nation. To encourage settlement, Mexican authorities allowed organized immigration from the United States, and by 1834, over 30,000 Anglos lived in Texas, compared to 7,800 Mexicans.
After Santa Anna‘s dissolution of the Constitution of 1824 and his political shift to the right, issues such as lack of access to courts, the militarization of the region’s government (e.g., response to Saltillo-Monclova problem), and self-defense issues resulting in the confrontation in Gonzales, public sentiment in Mexican and Anglo Texans turned towards revolution. Santa Anna’s invasion of the territory after putting down the rebellion in Zacatecasprovoked the conflict of 1836. The Texian forces fought and won the Texas Revolution in 1835–1836.
Although not recognized as such by Mexico, Texas declared itself an independent nation, the Republic of Texas. Attracted by the rich lands for cotton plantations and ranching, tens of thousands of immigrants arrived from the U.S. and from Germany as well. In 1845, Texas joined the United States, becoming the 28th state, when the United States annexed it. Only after the conclusion of the Mexican–American War, with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, did Mexico recognize Texan independence. Texas declared its secession from the United States in 1861 to join the Confederate States of America. Only a few battles of the American Civil War were fought in Texas; most Texas regiments served in the east. When the war ended, the enslaved African Americans were freed. Texas was subject to Reconstruction, a process that left a residue of bitterness among whites. They regained political dominance and passed laws in the late 19th century creating a second-class status for blacks in a Jim Crow system of segregation and disenfranchising them in 1901 through the passage of a poll tax. Blacks were excluded from the formal political system until after passage of federal civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s.
Cotton, ranching, and farming dominated the economy, with railroad construction after 1870 a major factor in the development of new cities away from rivers and waterways. Toward the end of the 19th century, timber became an important industry in Texas as well. In 1901 a petroleum discovery at Spindletop Hill, near Beaumont, was developed as the most productive oil well the world had ever seen. The wave of oil speculation and discovery that followed came to be known as the “Oil Boom”, permanently transforming and enriching the economy of Texas. Agriculture and ranching gave way to a service-oriented society after the boom years of World War II. Segregation ended in the 1960s due to federal legislation. Politically, Texas changed from the virtually one-party Democratic state achieved following disenfranchisement to a highly contested political scene, until 2000 when it was solidly Republican. The economy of Texas has continued to grow rapidly, becoming the second-largest state in population in 1994, and became economically highly diversified, with a growing base in new technology.