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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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New from the Massachusetts Historical Society

This week I’m going to highlight several new online historical resources. (And if they’re not really new, they’re new to me.)

To start with, the Massachusetts Historical Society has launched an ambitious educational project called The Coming of the American Revolution. It provides digital images and transcriptions of hundreds of primary-source documents from the Revolutionary period, organized around fifteen chronological topics from “The Sugar Act” in 1764 to “Declarations of Independence” in 1776.

Some of those documents are well known, but others are rare, and provide unusual insights into the events. Take, for example, the Boston Massacre on 5 Mar 1770.

Where was Whig crowd organizer William Molineux on that evening? The diary of merchant John Rowe shows that Molineux was “at Mrs Cordis [i.e., the British Coffee-House] with the Fire Club.” That implies he wasn’t the man in the white wig who urged men down at the dock to stand up for their rights.

Back here I wrote about Dr. Benjamin Church’s autopsy of Crispus Attucks. You can read the original printing of Church’s deposition here, in the Boston town report calmly titled A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre.

Supporters of the Crown were active, too. They gathered depositions in Boston, shipped them to London, and printed their own report there: A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston in New England. That pamphlet’s never been reprinted (unlike the Boston report), and it isn’t part of the Readex’s Archive of Americana because it was printed in London. Now it’s available with a transcript here.

The trials of British military men for the Massacre ended with acquittals for most of the accused and convictions on manslaughter for Pvt. Edward Montgomery and Pvt. Mathew Kilroy. Here’s the one-sentence report in the 17 Dec 1770 Boston Gazette about those two men being branded on the thumb.

Some other highlights from The Coming of the American Revolution.

The site includes lots of educational modules, guidance for students on interpreting historic documents, and links to other useful sites (including Boston 1775). This ongoing project was funded by the Education Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Anonymous said...

What fantastic stuff! Thanks for the links. Browsing through the Knox diary brought a chuckle. On page 3, Knox notes "glad to leave N York it being very expensive."

As a current New Yorker, I can verify that it's STILL very expensive here!

Steven Wyder said...

Excellent site and resources! Tip of my imaginary "tri-corned" hat MHS. As a AP US History teacher I will be using the resources, especially the primary sources. Thanks for the link Mr. Bell.