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.

Follow by Email

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lloyd on Ordinary Bostonians, 1700-1850, on 30 May

On Thursday, 30 May, Boston’s Vilna Shul hosts an event co-sponsored with the Beacon Hill Scholars: scholar Joanne Lloyd inviting folks to “Meet the ‘Ordinary People’ of Early Boston.”

The event’s description says:
Join us as Joanne Lloyd, Ph.D., discusses her book Beneath the City on the Hill. Like the Puritans, the Founding Fathers and Mothers and the well known writers and intellectuals who garnered early-19th-century Boston the honorific “Athens in America,” the ordinary people; the sailors, fiddlers, Irish servants, African slaves, brothel workers and liquor sellers had a hand in the making of colonial and early republic Boston. Yet we know little about them. Dr. Lloyd’s book tells the stories of these people that have been left out of many of our history books.
I went looking for the book, and it appears to be Lloyd’s doctoral dissertation from Boston College, written in 2007. Lloyd’s description of that work offers more detail about her approach and scope:
Few American cities have garnered the scholarly attention that colonial and early republic Boston has. Narratives of Puritan fathers and their “goodwives” and of “Founding Fathers” and “Founding Mothers” line the shelves of our libraries and book stores, but an aspect of Boston’s past has been long missing. More than anything else, in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Boston was a maritime town. Its connection to the Atlantic world made Boston a city different than the proverbial “City on the Hill” that we tend to imagine.

Indeed, there were two Bostons. With great humility I borrow the concept from Charles Dickens and suggest that this narrative tells a tale of two cities. We know much about the “City on the Hill” and practically nothing about those who lived beneath it. Colonial widows who sold liquor in waterfront taverns, young single women who worked in brothels, women who ran low boardinghouses, black men who played fiddles in early republic Boston’s many dance cellars, and black mariners who sailed aboard Boston ships bound for China: these are the men and women who stand at the heart of this study.

Two laws serve as approximate bookends. Promulgated in 1705, the first 1aw banned interracial sex and outlawed interracial marriage. Passed in 1843, the second law repealed the first. During the 150 years between these two laws, the lives of plebian white and black Bostonians intertwined and intersected in social, economic, and intimate ways that have been obscured by narratives that portray colonial and early republic Boston as a culturally homogeneous town, by nineteenth-century narratives that erased the black presence or filtered out the white presence, and by modern narratives that focus on racial alienation. Consequently, Boston’s historiography is racially segregated. There is a white narrative and a black narrative. Interweaving the two, the present study describes the making and the remaking of “the lower orders” and illuminates men and women whose lives have been obscured by the long shadow cast by the “City on the Hill.”
Thus, the Revolution stands in the center of the period Lloyd covers. Aside from inspiring the end of slavery in Massachusetts, what impact did that political change at the top have on Boston’s poorer working people?

Lloyd’s talk is scheduled to begin at 6:00 P.M. The Vilna Shul is at 18 Phillips Street in Boston. The event is free, but the site asks people to register by email.

3 comments:

EJWitek said...

Is this book in print? I went searching for it and cannot find the publisher or any other details. It looks to be very interesting and unique.

J. L. Bell said...

I also looked for Lloyd’s study in the usual commercial places and didn’t find it. So I think that until it’s formally published it may be available only as a dissertation through academic channels.

Emily Hegarty said...

I also want to read the book!