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, April 03, 2021

Locating “Revolution Happened Here”

Here’s a digital public history project to keep an eye on the coming years: Revolution Happened Here: Our Towns in the American Revolution, from the Pioneer Valley History Network.

This website invites local history organizations from western Massachusetts to upload pictures of Revolutionary-era items and the stories behind them.

As the project description says:
This website will become a place where visitors can discover how the American Revolution, while globally seismic in its consequences, was at its heart intrinsically local and intensely personal.
To be sure, there’s some regional rivalry or healthy resentment involved:
In the conventional, top-down history of the Revolution, western Massachusetts towns simply reacted to the ideas, decisions and actions of elites from Boston, the presumed hub of Revolutionary activity. Revolution Happened Here will enrich and complicate this narrative by sharing the debates and experiences in our towns.
Because of the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers, many towns in western Massachusetts had more business and other interaction with the colonies of Connecticut and New York than with Boston. Plus, the issues of import tariffs and military occupation that roiled Boston from 1767 to the start of the war had less direct impact on farming communities.

That makes the developments at the end of summer 1774 all the more striking. While Bostonians chafed under the return of troops, most other communities were free to organize and protest against the Massachusetts Government Act. The westernmost county began the court-closing movement in August, and it spread eastward.

Western Massachusetts returned to that tactic after the war, “regulating” courts again in protest of what the region’s small farmers saw as economic and legal hardships. The Boston trading class responded by dubbing that movement “Shays’ Rebellion” and raising funds for a militia force to put it down.

Some of the interesting artifacts on display on the Revolution Happened Here site include:
And this online collection should grow as the Sestercentennial proceeds.

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