Review by K. K. Searle
James P. Bevill had let it be known several years ago that he was working on a book about the money and finances of the Republic of Texas; and frankly, I was not sure what to expect. Having seen a number of catalogues geared towards paper money collectors, I was not prepared for the groundbreaking scope of Bevill's finished book, The Paper Republic - The Struggle for Money, Credit and Independence in the Republic of Texas.
Almost everyone who has read The Paper Republic has been completely awestruck by what James Bevill has accomplished. What he has done is nothing short of extraordinary. In an era of endless hashing and rehashing of secondary sources by revisionist historians, Bevill went out and dug into a mountain of private Texana collections locked up in dozens of safe deposit boxes across the state - primary sources of new information. Working with other collectors to tell the previously untold story of Texas money, he discovered documents that no one had ever looked at before by looking where no one had thought to look before. What makes this tour de force all the more amazing is that Bevill is not a historian by vocation.
Bevill is a wealth management advisor at UBS in Houston. He is also a numismatist who got interested in collecting Republic of Texas currency as a hobby. Later, he decided to learn everything he could about the Republic of Texas currency that he was collecting but initially found only a vacuum of information on the subject. While trying to learn more about the money of the Republic of Texas, he meticulously researched the Texas Treasury Papers - transcripts of original correspondence from the treasury of the Republic, and compared these letters to the original monetary instruments which were imaged from numerous private collections. While doing so, he began to discover things about the history of the Republic of Texas from primary sources that simply could not be found in any of the previously published histories of Texas.
By researching the money and economy of the Republic of Texas and sharing these findings in his book, Bevill has added a whole new dimension to our understanding of the overall history of the Republic of Texas. The last person to do something like this was another avocational historian, Gregg Dimmick. As you will recall, Dr. Gregg Dimmick is a pediatrician who relied on several overlooked primary sources (diaries and books written by Mexican Army officers who participated in the Texas Revolution). Based on these primary sources, Dimmick began an archeological dig in pasture near Wharton, Texas. His research and discovories presented in his book, Sea of Mud - The Retreat of the Mexican Army after San Jacinto, An Archeological Investigation, added a whole new dimension to everyone's understanding of the Texas Revolution.
Just as Gregg Dimmick's research, his discoveries and his book forced everyone to rethink what they thought they knew about the Texas Revolution; Bevill's book, The Paper Republic, is forcing everyone to rethink what they thought they knew about the social and economic history of the Republic of Texas. Many Texas historians knew the "what" and the "when" concerning many of the events surrounding the Texas Revolution and the history of the Republic of Texas. Now, The Paper Republic explains the "why" of many of these events for the first time.
At 352 pages, The Paper Republic is huge. In addition to the whole new economic dimension he adds to the history of the Republic of Texas, Bevill keeps the reader interested and entertained with many interesting anecdotes and details about early Texas history that are simply found nowhere else.
Richly illustrated with hundreds of high quality digital photographs and scans, James Bevill's book is also one of the most beautiful Texas history books we have ever seen. The Paper Republic is destined to become a classic on the history of the Republic of Texas and is already being widely recognized as such. As an example, the Sons of the Republic of Texas just announced that The Paper Republic is the winner of the 2009 Summerfield G. Roberts Award for Texas historical literature.
I am a huge fan of this book. If you only read one Texas history book this year, get The Paper Republic and read it cover to cover. I promise that you will learn things about the history of Texas that you have never read before. I know I did!
The Paper Republic - The Struggle for Money, Credit and Independence in the Republic of Texas is published by Bright Sky Press, copyright 2009, and is available from Amazon.com.