The Handbook of Texas Online is a digital state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) that is free and accessible for students, teachers, scholars, and the general public. The TSHA was organized in Austin on March 2, 1897, and the Handbook began as two printed volumes in 1952, with a supplemental third volume in 1976. Twenty years later, the Handbook expanded to a six-volume set. With the onset of the digital age, the TSHA chose to digitize the existing Handbook to create a user-friendly digital repository of Texas history that currently includes more than 27,000 encyclopedic entries.
The Handbook consists of overview, general, and biographical entries focused on the entire history of Texas from the indigenous Native Americans and the Prehistoric Era to the state’s diverse population and the Modern Age. These entries emphasize the role Texans played in state, national, and world history. The TSHA continuously expands the Handbook through multi-year spinoff projects that focus on diverse topics to preserve all Texans’ history. The most recent additions include the Handbook of Texas Music (2003, 2012, 2015), Handbook of Civil War Texas (2011), Handbook of African American Texas (2013), Handbook of Tejano History (2016), and the forthcoming Handbook of Houston (2017).
Last year, the Handbook website experienced 9,239,917 page views with 4,361,147 unique users from 231 countries and territories, making it not only a Texas resource, but a global one. This project began in 1939 as an effort led by University of Texas Professor Walter Prescott Webb to preserve Texas history and create “the most useful book that has ever been published in Texas.” Webb admitted that his goal might be “an impossible dream,” but his leadership facilitated the funding, staffing, and publication of the original two-volume Handbook in 1952.
After more than sixty years, the Handbook continues to promote scholarship and encourage the study of Texas history. TSHA and the Handbook staff collaborate with historical associations within Texas and across the United States to promote the study of state and local history. The Handbook provides opportunities for graduate students, lay historians, scholars, and professors to preserve history by researching and authoring concise entries for educational purposes and the betterment of society.
With your support, we can continue the “impossible dream” of Walter Prescott Webb to provide a free resource for all of Texas history. Donate today, and you will keep the Handbook of Texas Online available at no charge for future generations, support future updates, and develop new Handbook projects.