Jeffrey Kerr on Austin’s Tumultous Beginnings at BookPeople


9780896727823It seems like just about everyone loves Austin these days, with noobie residents arriving by the thousands each year and national media crowning it (and crowning it, and crowning it again) among the hippest and most livable cities in the country. (Anti-Austin backlash to the hype is equally well established, further proving the point.)

But in the early days of Texas, Austin was a controversial township that launched some Texas-sized political wrangling. A new book by Austin historian Jeffery Kerr called Seat of Empire (Texas Tech University Press) recounts the numerous difficulties attached to the city’s founding.

By the late 1830s, Mirabeau Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas, had developed a vision for the city of Austin as a triumphant capital rising from the Texas frontier. But Sam Houston, who preceded Lamar as president, and who still held a great deal of clout in the Republic, had other ideas. Theirs was a fight over where the heart of Texas should lie.

Add to this political drama the hazards of the still-wild Texas wilderness, the still-active Comanche Nation, and the Mexican army. It all made for a perilous and epic beginning for Texas’ unlikely capital.

Seat of Empire is Kerr’s third book of Austin history, following The Republic of Austin and Austin: Then and Now. He’ll talk about it at Austin’s BookPeople on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 7 PM.

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Nick Swartsell is a freelance writer and graduate student at the University of Texas.


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