David J. Weber
David Joseph Weber (December 20, 1940 – August 20, 2010) was an American historian whose research focused on the history of the Southwestern U.S. and its transition from Spanish and Mexican control to becoming part of the United States, a field of study that had largely been ignored, as “United States historians saw the field as part of Latin American history and ignored it", while "Latin American historians regarded it as belonging to the history of the United States, and likewise gave it short shrift."
Weber was born in Buffalo, New York and raised in nearby Cheektowaga. He attended the State University of New York at Fredonia. Though he had initially planned to major in music, a course in the History of Latin America led him to change his mind, and he graduated in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in social sciences. He majored in Latin American history at the University of New Mexico, earning a master's degree in 1964 and a doctorate in 1967 with the dissertation The Taos Trappers: The Fur Trade in the Far Southwest, 1540-1846.
Weber joined the faculty of San Diego State University in 1967 and taught at the Universidad de Costa Rica in 1970, lecturing in Spanish, as part of the Fulbright Program. He was hired in 1976 by Southern Methodist University, where he established the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies.
Among the more than 20 books he authored on the subject, his 1982 book The Mexican Frontier, 1821-1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico (which won him the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the Organization of American Historians) and in his 1992 book The Spanish Frontier in North America, Weber filled in many of the missing details about the Spanish conquest and its effects on Native Americans, and explored the growth of the Anglo population in areas that would later become parts of the United States. William J. Cronon of the University of Wisconsin, Madison called him "probably the single most important scholar of Spanish borderland history in North America in the second half of the 20th century", saying that "There is no one to compare with him in terms of original scholarship or sweeping synthesis." Benjamin Johnson of SMU said that "he was at least a generation ahead of his time in recognizing how entwined Mexico and the United States were and are".
He was recognized by the Spanish government with the Real Orden de Isabel la Católica (Order of Isabella the Catholic)[when?] and by the Mexican government with the Order of the Aztec Eagle in 2005, the highest honor that each nation awards to foreigners. He was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007 and was a member of the Academia Mexicana de la Historia and was president of the Western History Association in 1990 and 1991.
Weber continued to teach and advise students even while he was undergoing chemotherapy, teaching classes through the spring 2010 semester. Weber died due to complications of multiple myeloma, aged 69, on August 20, 2010, in Gallup, New Mexico. He was survived by his wife, a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.
- Grimes, William. "David Weber, Southwest Expert, Dies at 69", The New York Times, August 27, 2010. Accessed September 7, 2010.
- Simnacher, Joe. "David J. Weber: SMU history professor among first to focus on importance of Mexico to U.S.", The Dallas Morning News, August 28, 2010. Accessed September 7, 2010.
- David J. Weber, Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. Accessed September 7, 2010.