European explorers first arrived in the region now known as Texas in 1519, finding the region populated by various Native American tribes. During the period from 1519 to 1848, all or parts of Texas were claimed by six countries: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America—as well as the Confederate States of America in 1861–65.
The first European base was established in 1682, when René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle established a French colony, Fort Saint Louis, near Matagorda Bay. The colony was killed off after three years, but its presence motivated Spanish authorities to begin activity. Several missions were established in East Texas; they were abandoned in 1691. Twenty years later, concerned with the French presence in neighboring Louisiana, Spanish authorities again attempted to colonize Texas. In approximately 1779, the Robert Harvey family settled a small ranch near present-day Huntsville, becoming the first known U.S. citizens to emigrate to Texas. Over the next 110 years, Spain established numerous villages, presidios, and missions in the province. A small number of Spanish settlers arrived, in addition to missionaries and soldiers. Spain signed agreements with colonizers from the United States. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexican Texas was part of the new nation. To encourage settlement, Mexican authorities allowed organized immigration from the United States, and by 1834, over 30,000 Anglos lived in Texas, compared to only 7,800 Mexicans. The slaves in Mexico were primarily held by the Anglo immigrants, who were thus most affected when the slaves were freed throughout Mexico in 1830. See History of slavery in Texas
Angry at the government in Mexico City, the Texian forces fought and won the Texas Revolution in 1835–36. Texas now became an independent nation, the Republic of Texas. Attracted by the rich cotton lands and ranch lands, tens of thousands of immigrants arrived from the U.S. (bringing slaves) and from Germany as well. In 1845, Texas joined the United States, becoming the 28th state. Determined to protect slavery, Texas declared its secession from the United States in 1861 to join the Confederate States of America. Only a few battles of the American Civil War were fought in Texas; most Texas regiments served in the east. When the war ended the slaves were freed and Texas was subject to Reconstruction, a process that left a residue of bitterness among whites and a second- class status for blacks in a Jim Crow system of segregation.
Cotton and ranching dominated the economy, with railroad construction after 1870 a major factor in the formation of new cities. Toward the end of the 19th century timber became an important industry in Texas as well. In 1901 a petroleum discovery at Spindletop Hill, near Beaumont, created the most productive oil well the world had ever seen. The wave of oil speculation and discovery that followed came to be known as the "Oil Boom", permanently transforming and enriching the economy of Texas. Agriculture and ranching gave way to a service-oriented society after the boom years of World War II. Segregation ended in the 1960s, and instead of a one-party Democratic state, Texas was first highly competitive and (after 2000), solidly Republican. Texas has continued to grow rapidly, becoming the second largest state in population in 1994, and became economically highly diversified, with a growing base in high technology.