Boston's Massacre

Boston's Massacre Over two hundred eyewitness accounts survive of the melee on King Street in Boston on March 5, 1770, yet historians still struggle to understand exactly what transpired that night. In revisiting this flash point of the American Revolution, Eric A. Hinderaker shows why “Boston's massacre” matters despite—even because of—the particulars that remain uncertain. The book has two principal analytical strands. First, Hinderaker shows that the massacre was “a global event shaped by local sensibilities” (p. 24). “Global” here might also be glossed as “imperial.” Hinderaker sets the conflict between British soldiers and Boston civilians in the context of Britain's struggle to manage its empire. Particularly well developed is the discussion of the enormous headaches British administrators experienced over where and how to house the soldiers sent to keep order in a restive Boston in the late 1760s. In interpreting Bostonians' protests against this occupying force, Hinderaker offers a nuanced analysis of what the “mob” signified in the early modern world. While he acknowledges the impossibility of determining precisely what happened on March 5, his contextualization shows how the conditions for that night's violence were set over the months that soldiers, the officers who commanded them, and locals of different political leanings all jostled in a Boston that, despite its pretensions to city status, continued to be a rather small town. Hinderaker's second emphasis is the Boston Massacre's place in historical memory and narrative, starting with the publications immediately after the event that turned an inchoate set of eyewitness accounts into a “massacre.” The book's final chapters explore how the massacre has been commemorated (or ignored) in the two and a half centuries since. Hinderaker emphasizes the annual March 5 commemorations in Boston during the Revolutionary War; the revival of memories of Crispus Attucks by nineteenth-century activists for African American civil rights; and the pointed comparisons to the Boston Massacre made in the wake of the Kent State University shootings in 1970. The conclusion briefly references contemporary concerns about police brutality and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; further development of this “genealogy from Crispus Attucks to Michael Brown” would have been welcome as a means of assessing whether the Boston Massacre still constitutes a usable past (p. 282). This is the best book-length treatment of this pivotal event since Hiller B. Zobel's authoritative The Boston Massacre (1970). Hinderaker offers a streamlined (but still detailed) narrative while also incorporating recent scholarship on imperial, military, and social history to explain the events and context. These qualities make the book especially well suited for classroom use. Hinderaker's close reading of the different eyewitness accounts and subsequent retellings of the massacre will help students think critically about historical sources and narratives. The author's eye for vivid detail and his ear for striking quotations make Boston's Massacre an engaging read. As the nation looks ahead to the 250th anniversary of this world-changing event, this book is a vital addition to collections on the American Revolution. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of American History Oxford University Press

Boston's Massacre

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/boston-s-massacre-M0vGAmd8DS
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.
ISSN
0021-8723
eISSN
1945-2314
D.O.I.
10.1093/jahist/jax445
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Over two hundred eyewitness accounts survive of the melee on King Street in Boston on March 5, 1770, yet historians still struggle to understand exactly what transpired that night. In revisiting this flash point of the American Revolution, Eric A. Hinderaker shows why “Boston's massacre” matters despite—even because of—the particulars that remain uncertain. The book has two principal analytical strands. First, Hinderaker shows that the massacre was “a global event shaped by local sensibilities” (p. 24). “Global” here might also be glossed as “imperial.” Hinderaker sets the conflict between British soldiers and Boston civilians in the context of Britain's struggle to manage its empire. Particularly well developed is the discussion of the enormous headaches British administrators experienced over where and how to house the soldiers sent to keep order in a restive Boston in the late 1760s. In interpreting Bostonians' protests against this occupying force, Hinderaker offers a nuanced analysis of what the “mob” signified in the early modern world. While he acknowledges the impossibility of determining precisely what happened on March 5, his contextualization shows how the conditions for that night's violence were set over the months that soldiers, the officers who commanded them, and locals of different political leanings all jostled in a Boston that, despite its pretensions to city status, continued to be a rather small town. Hinderaker's second emphasis is the Boston Massacre's place in historical memory and narrative, starting with the publications immediately after the event that turned an inchoate set of eyewitness accounts into a “massacre.” The book's final chapters explore how the massacre has been commemorated (or ignored) in the two and a half centuries since. Hinderaker emphasizes the annual March 5 commemorations in Boston during the Revolutionary War; the revival of memories of Crispus Attucks by nineteenth-century activists for African American civil rights; and the pointed comparisons to the Boston Massacre made in the wake of the Kent State University shootings in 1970. The conclusion briefly references contemporary concerns about police brutality and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; further development of this “genealogy from Crispus Attucks to Michael Brown” would have been welcome as a means of assessing whether the Boston Massacre still constitutes a usable past (p. 282). This is the best book-length treatment of this pivotal event since Hiller B. Zobel's authoritative The Boston Massacre (1970). Hinderaker offers a streamlined (but still detailed) narrative while also incorporating recent scholarship on imperial, military, and social history to explain the events and context. These qualities make the book especially well suited for classroom use. Hinderaker's close reading of the different eyewitness accounts and subsequent retellings of the massacre will help students think critically about historical sources and narratives. The author's eye for vivid detail and his ear for striking quotations make Boston's Massacre an engaging read. As the nation looks ahead to the 250th anniversary of this world-changing event, this book is a vital addition to collections on the American Revolution. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.

Journal

The Journal of American HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off