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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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reviewing the Massacre

The latest issue of the New England Quarterly includes my review of As If an Enemy’s Country: The British Occupation of Boston and the Origins of Revolution, by Richard Archer.

Most of this review (my first for the N.E.Q.) discusses the contrasts between Archer’s book and Hiller B. Zobel’s venerable The Boston Massacre, published for the event’s bicentennial in 1970. The older book brought out a lot of new sources on the months leading up to the Massacre, and the new book has hardly any to add.

On the other hand, I’m more convinced by the interpretations in As If an Enemy’s Country. As some critics noted back in 1970, The Boston Massacre rhetorically tilts toward the Crown, and blames Samuel Adams for manipulating the people of Boston. The real story of this historical period, I believe, is how military occupation can easily produce more militant opponents than were there before.


History and von Fersen said...

Do you recommend me to read both or if I'm to choose one would it be the later?

I have a new adress to my blog if you're interested:

J. L. Bell said...

I’d recommend Zobel’s Boston Massacre first because it has more detail. But if one has time to read only a single book on the period, I think Archer’s As If an Enemy’s Country is shorter and covers the basics.