J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Reading the London Gazette in 1775

From Jon Kukla and the H-OIEAHC email list came word of the searchable database of the London Gazette—the official British government newspaper. (The same database includes the Edinburgh Gazette, published sporadically between 1699 and 1794, and the Belfast Gazette, launched in 1922.)

The search function is a little awkward, and the result comes as a PDF download named “page.pdf.” That could become confusing if you don’t immediately rename the files you’ve downloaded. Nonetheless, this is a useful look at what the London government wanted its subjects to believe.

Here, for example, is the official word from His Majesty’s government on 30 May 1775:

A REPORT having been spread, and an Account having been printed and published, of a Skirmish between some of the People in the Province of Massachuset’s Bay and a Detachment of His Majesty’s Troops; it is proper to inform the Publick, that no Advices have as yet been received in the American Department of any such Event.

There is Reason to believe, that there are dispatches from General [Thomas] Gage on board The Sukey, Captain Brown, which, though she sailed Four Days before the Vessel that brought the printed Account, is not yet Arrived.
Remain calm! All is well!

The same issue reported important international news:
Warsaw, May 13. The very uncommonly dry and cold Weather, which we have had for some Time past, has occasioned a great Mortality in and about this Town.
The newspaper account the Gazette referred to and tried to refute was the Massachusetts Provincial Congress’s account of the outbreak of war, brought to London on a fast boat by Capt. John Derby of Salem. Gage’s report on the Battle of Lexington and Concord didn’t reach Whitehall until 10 June.

TOMORROW: “Online Resources” Week segues into “Lexington and Concord” Week.

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