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 16, 2011

Jasanoff Speaks on Loyalists at Old South, 20 Oct.

Today at 2:00 the Old South Meeting House is installing its new bell, amid a planned peal from dozens of other public bells around Boston.

On Thursday at 6:30 P.M., the site will host a talk by Maya Jasanoff, author of Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. Reviewing that book in The Wilson Quarterly, Nancy Isenberg wrote:
In this smart and gracefully written book, Jasanoff provides an instructive story of how losers shape history. A historian at Harvard, she specializes in modern British and imperial history, and thus easily avoids the pitfalls of seeing the loyalists through the distorted lens of their patriot adversaries. The cast of characters she introduces at the beginning of the book are three-dimensional figures—people who speak in their own words, are fascinating in their own right, and exhibit conflicted views and divergent aspirations. . . .

These disparate personal narratives tell a larger story about how loyalists spread across the British Empire, changing it in the process. Jasanoff exposes the irony that loyalists more resembled their provincial enemies than they did their allies in the British Isles. . . .

Jasanoff forces us to rethink the Revolution's losers. Loyalists parted with vast tracts of property, ancestral homes, and beloved family members. But as they rebuilt their lives, they redefined the British Empire. They came from different religious backgrounds, different colonies, different races and classes. Yet the British government’s desire to incorporate the exiles, and thus to advance Britain’s global objectives, allowed the loyalists to assume a unique position: Fighting to regain their lost status, or in the case of free blacks, to ensure their new status, they became dynamic agents of political change. As a result, Jasanoff concludes, “these losers were winners in the end.”
Prof. Jasanoff’s talk is free and open to the public.

1 comment:

John L. Smith said...

I saw Professor Jasanoff give a short lecture (from the Harvard Coop, if I recall) regarding her book subject a few months ago on C-Span2 BookTV. She is a very engaging speaker and I still remember many of the stories she told which gave me new feelings of pity for the faceless "Loyalists", as I had thought of them. It would be well worth someone's time to hear this lecture!