Abstract. The SMC represents an exciting opportunity to observe the direct results of tidal interactions on star birth. One of the best indicators of recent star birth activity is the presence of significant numbers of High-Mass X-ray Binaries (HMXBs)- and the SMC has them in abundance! We present results from nearly 10 years of monitoring these systems plus a wealth of other groundbased optical data. Together they permit us to build a picture of a galaxy with a mass of only a few percent of the Milky Way but with a more extensive HMXB population. However, as often happens, new discoveries lead to some challenging puzzles- where are the other X-ray binaries (eg black hole systems) in the SMC? And why do virtually all the SMC HMXBs have Be star companions? The evidence arising from these extensive optical observations for this apparently unusual stellar evolution are discussed
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