When Myth and Meaning Overshadow History: Remembering the Alamo

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


Rare are the students who enter US classrooms without some preconceived notions regarding the Alamo. Thanks to more than a dozen films produced at regular intervals over the last century, to Walt Disney’s television series for baby boomers still conveniently available on DVD, to Stephen Harrigan’s best-selling novel in 2000, and to countless Taco-Belled visuals and verbal lines drawn in the sand, generations of Americans and even immigrants from afar claim some familiarity with the contours of the story. More often than not, it is recounted as the simple tale of outnumbered defenders overwhelmed by an invading army, of valiant men who chose to die in order to bring into being the Republic of Texas. Indeed, for many decades, the history of the Alamo seemed to remain impervious to the revisionism so characteristic of American historiography in general. But since the sesquicentennial of the Battle of the Alamo in 1986, an increasingly sophisticated scholarship has emerged that frames the event from multiple new perspectives while providing opportunities to think about the relationships between history and myth, history and memory, and history and meaning.


Carol Berkin


Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History


New York

Publication Information

History Now

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