THE CITY- STATE OF BOSTON by MARK PETERSON

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 BostonAmerican Dialogue by Joseph Ellis, The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn, John Adams by David McCullough.  

 

 

 

THE BRITISH ARE COMING/RICK ATKINSON

It’s here, Volume One of Rick Atkinson’s The Revolution Trilogy!   At last, the story of the Revolutionary War, beyond the limits of a single volume. Volume one, THE BRITISH ARE COMING, is extraordinary and that comes as no surprise to those who have read his  WWII Liberation Trilogy, An Army at Dawn, The Day of Battle, The Guns at Last Light.

Volume One of the Revolution Trilogy  tells the story from both the American and British perspective of the first 21 months of America’s war for independence. Incredible detail and a volume of characters with many new heroes and knaves. Atkinson’s narrative is in living color.  The Continental Army is indeed ragtag,  and Ben Franklin, Henry Knox, Nathaniel Greene, George Washington and many others are all seen in a new and very much alive perspective.  Even though history has unveiled the outcome, Atkinson entices the reader to plead for more intricate detail on just how that ending unfolded.  Volume Two is on the way.

SARAH VOWELL/ LAFAYETTE/MAKES HISTORY PERTINENT/RELEVANT/FUN!

If I were a superintendent of schools I would be inclined to advise  publishers of history texts  to invite Sarah Vowell to author my high school books. I suspect rather than turning away from a dry text of dates and  events, students might flock to the class to learn history from a contemporary author and storyteller who “gets it!”

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Vowell’s  LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES  is extraordinary in its snarky telling of  the story of  the Marquis de Lafayette, adopted son of George Washington, and profound contributor to the successful outcome of  the Revolutionary  War. Vowell’s history is  contemporary, humorous, relatable, and in your face.

Let me tempt you.

” I would like to see the calamity at Valley Forge  as just the growing pains of a new nation. It has been a long time since the men and women serving in the armed forces of the world’s only superpower went naked because some crooked townies in upstate New York filched their uniforms.  But there’s still this combination of governmental ineptitude, shortsightedness, stinginess, corruption and neglect that affected the Continental Army before, during and after Valley Forge that 21st Century Americans are not entirely unfamiliar with.”

” Whatever the actual  root of our centuries- old, all-American inability to get out shit together, no one can deny that the flinty survivors of Valley Forge embodied another national trait that every man, woman and child in this  republic is supposed to have: backbone, self-reliance, grit. An attribute that comes in handy in this less-than-public-spirited republic the Continentals were fighting to bring about.”

Yes, Vowell offers some fine upbraiding and stern lectures, but she does not miss a molecule of the history of Lafayette, the French, Washington, Yorktown,  Saratoga, Franklin, Adams, Cornwallis, Gage, the Palace at Versailles, Von Stuben, Hamilton, Jefferson, Knox and Howe.

Even the ” Boss “ makes the cut, the battle at Monmouth having been fought on his home turf.  Vowell writes, ” It’s a different kind of independence, personal, not political, but one of the many things we won in that war fought over two centuries ago turned out to be the freedom of expression that let a dude from New Jersey  write a song like Thunder Road.

The American Revolution, bare bones,  readable, relatable and memorable. If only Mr. Stevens at South High School  had a copy of  LAFAYETTE IN THE SOMEWHAT UNITED STATES.  I would have known so much more, so much earlier!

Also by Sarah Vowell, Unfamiliar Fishes, The Wordy Pilgrims, Assassination Vacation, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Take the Cannoli, Radio On.