In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Wars of Mexico and the United States, 1836–1848

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews, the American Southwest
  • General Overviews, The US-Mexico War
  • Readers and Anthologies
  • Reference Works

Military History Wars of Mexico and the United States, 1836–1848
Sam Haynes
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 July 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0140


Conflicts between Anglo-Americans and Hispanics date back to the earliest contacts between the peoples of the United States and New Spain’s northern frontier. American filibusters had ventured into the region in the early 19th century, prompting both Spain and then Mexico to undertake efforts to colonize the lands north of the Rio Grande. But even Anglo-American colonists bridled at the obligations of Mexican citizenship, and in a few short years the growing expatriate community had risen up in open rebellion against the host government. The war for Texas independence thus provided the opening salvo in what would be a conflict between the two North American neighbors that would span a dozen years, ending with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Historians of the United States have traditionally viewed the Texas Revolution (1835–1836) and the US-Mexico War (1846–1848) as two separate events. But for Mexico and Texas, the war continued for a decade after Santa Anna’s defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto. And although historians have often stressed the role of the Polk administration in provoking the war, the conflict that began along the banks of the Rio Grande in 1846 would never have occurred had Mexico accepted the loss of Texas. Instead, it regarded the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 as nothing less than the seizure of a large part of its national domain. Little wonder then, that in Mexico the conflict with the United States was initially known simply as the “Texas War.”

General Overviews, the American Southwest

Several recent books on the American Southwest offer valuable insight into the causes of conflict between Mexicans and Anglo-Americans during this period. Although De la Teja 2010, Ramos 2009, Reséndez 2005, and Weber 1982 do not focus exclusively on the issue of ethnic conflict, each has sought to integrate the brief history of Mexican-held Texas into the larger structures of US borderlands scholarship.

  • De la Teja, F. Jesus, ed. Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010.

    A collection of eleven biographical studies of Tejano political leaders who played prominent roles in Texas during the 1821–1836 period of Mexican rule.

  • Ramos, Raúl. Beyond the Alamo: Forging Mexican Ethnicity in San Antonio, 1821–1861. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

    While not a study of the Revolution itself, this work looks at the ways in which Tejanos adapted to the immigration of Anglo-Americans into Texas, and helps to shed light on their uneasy relationship to both the Mexican state and their new neighbors.

  • Reséndez, Andrés. Changing National Identities at the Frontier: Texas and New Mexico, 1800–1850. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    Attaching particular importance to the impact of American market forces on Mexico’s northern frontier, the author describes a highly fluid environment in which both groups, as well as indigenous peoples, tried to deal with the contest for hegemony over the region that was taking place between Mexico and the United States. Whereas the Mexican government sought to win the loyalty of northern frontier elites through political patronage, the United States offered greater economic advantages.

  • Weber, David J. The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest under Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

    A highly readable yet scholarly overview of Mexico’s northern borderlands during the twenty-five years prior to the war with the United States by one of the preeminent historians of the American Southwest. Describes a social environment of many separate frontiers, each with their own social and cultural dynamics, existing within the US-Mexico borderlands.

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