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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Books by J. L. Bell or Including His Work

The Road to Concord explores a fresh dimension of the start of America’s War for Independence: the Massachusetts ’s Patriots efforts from September 1774 on to build an artillery force, and Gen. Thomas Gage’s attempts to thwart that insurgency.

At the heart of this history are four small brass cannon stolen from militia armories in Boston, smuggled out of town to the countryside, and finally located by royal spies in Concord. The Patriots and Gen. Gage both had reasons to keep those guns out of their public reports on the start of the war, meaning this story has never been fully told before.

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General George Washington’s Headquarters and Home—Cambridge, Massachusetts is a book-length historic resource study researched and written by J. L. Bell and published by the National Park Service in 2012. Using extensive quotations from primary sources, it explores the siege of Boston from the perspective of the newly appointed fortysomething commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

A 5.6-megabyte P.D.F. file of the entire 650-page study can be downloaded from the Park Service by clicking here. It can also be read on Scribd.

“Maverick Island,” with art by Joel Christian Gill and script by J. L. Bell, is a short comic about the start of slavery in Massachusetts. It was created for Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750, edited by Jason Rodriguez, A. Dave Lewis, and J. L. Bell, and published in 2014. More volumes are forthcoming.


“From Saucy Boys to Sons of Liberty: Politicizing Youth in Pre-Revolutionary Boston” is the last chapter in Children in Colonial America, edited by Prof. James Marten (N.Y.U. Press, 2006). Reviews from H-Net and PhiloBiblos.

Each of the collected volumes of the Journal of the American Revolution, edited by Todd Andrlik, Hugh T. Harrington, Don N. Hagist et al., includes articles by J. L. Bell.
  • 2013: “No Taxation Without Representation,” “The Intolerable Acts,” “Who Killed Major John Pitcairn?”
  • 2015: “Five Myths of Tarring and Feathering,” “How Samuel Adams Recruited Sons of Liberty”
  • 2016: “Newton Prince and the Struggle for Liberty”

Papers by Bell have been printed in the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife Proceedings volumes, edited by Peter Benes and Jane Montague Benes. These include:
  • The Worlds of Children (2002): “Du Simitière's sketches of Pope Day in Boston, 1767”
  • Life on the Streets and Commons (2007): “‘I Never Used to Go Out with a Weapon’: Law Enforcement on the Streets of Pre-Revolutionary Boston”
  • In Our Own Words (2009): “The Revolutionary-era Boy and ‘His Joyrnal’: Diary Keeping as a Step toward Manhood” and “John Rowe Changes His Diary”

“The Powder Alarm” and “The Battle of Lexington and Concord” are essays in Reporting the Revolutionary War: Before It Was History, It Was News, edited by Todd Andrlik (Sourcebooks, 2012).

“Boston Massacre: Pamphlets and Propaganda,” “Boston Tea Party: Politicizing Ordinary People,” and “George Robert Twelves Hewes” are articles in the encyclopedia Americans at War: Society, Culture, and the Homefront, edited by John P. Resch (Thomson Gale, 2004).