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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Sunday, October 03, 2010

A.A.S. Programs in the Fall

The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester is hosting several lectures for the public this season, including three on people from eighteenth-century America.

On Tuesday, 12 October, at 7:30 P.M., Prof. Marla Miller of the University of Massachusetts will speak on “Betsy Ross: The Life behind the Legend.”

Legend has it that Betsy Ross created the first American flag. The truth is far less certain and far more interesting. In this program Miller describes how she came to research and write the first scholarly biography of Ross. The story she uncovers is a richly textured study of Ross’s long and remarkable life, which included three marriages, seven children, and a successful career as a seamstress and upholsterer. The book also examines the world of Philadelphia artisans and provides new insights into the world of middle-class crafts people, women, and work during the tumultuous years of our nation’s founding.
Miller’s book on Ross is Betsy Ross and the Making of America.

On Thursday, 21 October, at 7:30 P.M., Prof. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich of Harvard will speak on “Reflections on A Midwife’s Tale.”
Ulrich’s 1990 book examines the life of one Maine midwife and provides a vivid analysis of ordinary life in the early American republic, including the role of women in the household and local market economy, the nature of marriage, sexual relations, family life, aspects of medical practice, and the prevalence of crime and violence. The book won many awards including the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Bancroft Prize. A Midwife’s Tale was also developed into a film of the same name which aired on The American Experience television program. In this lecture Professor Ulrich reflects on the impact this book has had on the discipline of history, the field of women’s studies, and her own life.
This is the Seventh Annual Robert C. Baron Lecture, which invites distinguished A.A.S. members who have written seminal works of history to reflect on one book and its impact.

On Tuesday, 9 November, at 7:30 P.M., Prof. Paul Finkelman of Albany Law School will discuss “John Peter Zenger and His Brief Narrative.”
Published in 1736, A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zenger is one of the most significant publications of colonial America and represents a major turning point in the history of freedom of the press and in the political development of colonial America and the early republic. John Peter Zenger was the first colonial publisher acquitted on a charge of libeling the governor. Zenger later published his own narrative of the trial, which became the most widely read American publication before the Revolution. This talk, based on a new edition of the Zenger narrative edited by Professor Finkelman, will explain this landmark legal case and show how it affected later developments, including the adoption of the Bill of Rights.
I’m curious about the desigation of Zenger’s Narrative as “the most widely read American publication before the Revolution.” That might be measured by the number of reprintings, but of course it would be a favorite project for printers. Does “before the Revolution” mean before the 1765-1775 political movement?

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