Boston, a city unlike any other in the annals of American history. ” A City On a Hill,” The Athens of America, ” The Cradle of Liberty.” Each appellation has been appropriately tested over centuries. Mark Peterson’s THE C ITY-STATE OF BOSTON is nothing short of remarkable and an important unfolding of the fundamental role this city and its colonial inhabitants played in America from the 1630’s through the onset of the Civil War.
Look not in these pages for the” Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” The Boston Tea Party, or for “One if by land, two if by sea.” No. This scholarly work is about Boston’s era of enormous influence through the prism of religion, colonial government, social norms, economics, trade, regional influence, slavery and the utopian ideals that the Puritans of the Great Migration brought with them to the New World. Peterson’s history unfolds upon American shores beginning in the 1630s as British Immigrants establish a largely independent entity called Boston, virtually free from the influence of the mother country. Boston, through the ingenuity and common purpose of its people, established an ethical culture whose influence spread to the evolving New England Region. Boston became the undisputed mercantile center of the worldwide Atlantic trade, and the dominant force of culture and ideals that lead to the American Revolution.
You will learn of the New England influence upon the Articles of Confederation, of John Adam’s conflicts with Thomas Jefferson in the framing of the Constitution, and of how the slave states ultimately dominated the direction of the nation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The southern block influence became so great under Jefferson that in the period of the War of 1812, Massachusetts considered becoming the first state to succeed from the fragile Union.
I hope these brief references will stimulate you to absorb Peterson’s incredible insight into this period of colonial history. It ranks at the very top of the books I have selected on the subject because it journeys deeply below the surface of the famous named historical events and creates an understanding of how the most important city of the period came into dominance and then faded. You will be introduced to new individuals whose names never have appeared on the,” marquee of history,” but the influence of whom was enormous.
Mark Peterson is the Edmund S. Morgan Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of The Price of Redemption: The Spiritual Economy of Puritan New England. Search gordonsgoodreads.com for two suggested companion reads to Boston: American Dialogue by Joseph Ellis, The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn, John Adams by David McCullough.