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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Past Talks by J. L. Bell

Public Presentations

  • “The Women of Washington’s Headquarters,” Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, Cambridge, March 2014.
  • “The Boston Bankruptcy That Led to the American Revolution,” History Camp, Cambridge, March 2014.
  • “How Google Books Changed My Life, and You Can, Too!” History Camp, Cambridge, March 2014.
  • “Reporting the Battle of Lexington,” Lexington Historical Society, February 2014.
  • “Boston’s Pre-Revolutionary Newspaper Wars,” Boston Public Library, Local & Family History Series, November 2013.
  • “Thomas Kempton’s Engraved Powder Horn,” Anderson House, Society of the Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., May 2013.
  • “George Washington, Crisis Manager: The Shaky Start-Up of the Continental Army Headquarters,” Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, Cambridge, March 2013.
  • “Penelope Royall, Cuba Vassall, and the Families of Tory Row,” Royall House and Slave Quarters, Medford, November 2012.
  • “The Powder Alarm,” Sudbury Minutemen, Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, Sudbury, November 2012.
  • “Washington’s Artillery: Remaking the Regiment Between Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights,” Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, Cambridge, March 2012; Anderson House, Society of the Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., July 2012.
  • “Reading a Powderhorn: How the Siege of Boston Looked Through One Soldier’s Eyes”/“Ephraim Moors’s Powder Horn,” Concord Museum, Concord, Mass., June 2012; Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, June 2013.
  • “Washington’s First Spy Ring,” Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, Cambridge, March 2011; Massachusetts Sons of the American Revolution, Boston, January 2012; Friends of Minute Man National Park, Lincoln, March 2013; Rhode Island Sons of the American Revolution/Daughters of the American Revolution, June 2014.
  • “The Guns of the Boston Train”/“What Did the British Hope to Find in Concord on April 19th?”, for New Hampshire Sons of the American Revolution, South Manchester, September 2010; Bunker Hill Monument Association, Charlestown, June 2011; Lincoln Minute Men, April 2012; State Library of Massachusetts, September 2013.
  • “Lost Holiday: How Colonial Boston Celebrated the Fifth of November,” Boston Public Library, November 2010.
  • “The Lost and Legendary Riders of April 19th,” for Paul Revere Memorial Association and Old South Meeting House, Boston, September 2010; Beverly Public Library, April 2011.
  • “The Guns of the Boston Train” and “The True Story of the ‘Pitcairn Pistols’,” Barrett Homestead, Save Our Heritage, Concord, July 2010.
  • “Cambridge: Birthplace of the American Navy?”, Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, March 2010.
  • “Paul Revere and Plan B,” keynote address of Paul Revere’s Ride Commemoration, Boston National Historical Park, Charlestown, April 2009.
  • “Why John Vassall Left His House,” Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, March 2009.
  • “Gossiping about the Gores: One Family Divided,” Old South Meeting House, Boston, January 2009.
  • “The Powder Alarm and the End of British Government in Massachusetts,” Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement, Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, April 2008.
  • “How Did Cannons Come to Concord?”, Minute Man National Historic Park, Lexington, September 2005.
  • “In Their Own Words: Skirmish on Lexington Green,” Minute Man National Historic Park, Lexington, March 2005.

Scholarly Papers
  • “Wemms et al.: The British Soldiers at the Boston Massacre,” Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife, Historic Deerfield, June 2012.
  • “Marital Infidelity and Espionage in the Siege of Boston,” Boston Area Early American History Seminar series, Massachusetts Historical Society, February 2012.
  • “Classes, Forms, and Divisions in Boston’s Pre-Revolutionary Schools,” annual meeting of the History of Education Society, Cambridge, November 2010.
  • “Listening to the Old Lady in the Kitchen: How Grandmothers’ Tales Became Legends for a Nation,” Heroism, Nationalism & Human Rights Conference, University of Connecticut, Storrs, February 2006.
  • “‘Latin School Gentlemen’ in Revolutionary Times: The Culture of Boston’s South Latin School under the Lovells,” annual conference of the New England Popular Culture Association, New London, N.H., November 2002; in revised form at annual conference of the New England Historical Association, Salem, October 2008.
  • “Behold, the Guns Were Gone!: Four Brass Cannons and the Start of the American Revolution,” Boston Area Early American History Seminar series, Massachusetts Historical Society, July 2001.

Panel Discussions & the Like
  • Panelist, “Diaries in Historical Research,” at Plymouth Public Library, May 2014.
  • Narrator and co-scripter, Boston Massacre reenactment, at Old State House, Boston, March 2011-2014.
  • Panelist, “Becoming a Published Author,” at History Camp, Cambridge, March 2014.
  • Moderator, Nathaniel Philbrick’s talk on “Bunker Hill and the Crisis of Leadership in Revolutionary America” at Cambridge Forum, First Parish, Cambridge, December 2013.
  • Panelist, “Reporting the American Revolution,” with Todd Andrlik of Rag Linen and Prof. Robert J. Allison of Suffolk University, Old State House, December 2012.
  • Moderator, Ted Widmer’s talk on “A Test Case for America: Washington, Longfellow and the Jewish Community at Newport” at Cambridge Forum, First Parish, Cambridge, December 2012.
  • Moderator, debate between Paul O’Shaughnessey, representing His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot, and Thomas Coots, representing Col. Thomas Gardner’s regiment of Middlesex County militia, Bunker Hill Monument Association annual meeting, Bunker Hill Museum, June 2012.
  • Moderator, “Where Did It Begin?” panel in series “A Nation Born: The Battles of Lexington and Concord” for the Massachusetts Historical Society and Old South Meeting House, Boston, March 2011.
  • Panelist, “A Knock at the Door: Three Centuries of Governmental Search and Seizure,” Old State House, Boston, November 2009.
  • Panelist, “Blogging History: Explorations in a New Medium,” Organization of American Historians annual meeting, Seattle, March 2009.

Teacher Workshops
  • “The Controversies of Bunker Hill,” Bunker Hill Museum, Charlestown, August 2013.
  • “Gen. Washington Builds an Army,” Bunker Hill Museum, Charlestown, August 2012.
  • “Ladies of Tory Row” and “The Women of Washington’s Headquarters,” Boston National Historical Park and Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters, August 2011.
  • “The Siege of Boston,” Massachusetts Historical Society and Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters, July 2011. 
  • “Using Graphic Novels to Teach the American Revolution,” Old South Meeting House, July 2008.
  • “The Killing of Christopher Seider,” Paul Revere House, May 2004.
  • “The American Revolution in Children’s Literature,” Paul Revere House, March 2002.
  • “Unsung Heroes of the Revolution” Old South Meeting House, March 2001.