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, May 12, 2012

Looking at Lexington in 1775

I’m abashed that I’m only now calling attention to Mary Babson Fuhrer’s article “The Revolutionary Worlds of Lexington and Concord Compared” in the March 2012 New England Quarterly. Its jumping-off point is Robert Gross’s The Minutemen and Their World, a highly respected study of Concord published in 1976.

Fuhrer writes:
Gross’s study, grounded as it is in local evidence, has withstood the test of time with few revisions. However, Concord had a partner in rebellion on 19 April. As the oft-repeated phrase “Lexington and Concord” suggests, the two towns have been fused in popular memory, and so the findings of The Minutemen and Their World have generally been taken to apply to Lexington as well.

But Lexington was no Concord. Unlike those in their neighboring town, the citizens of Lexington did not drag their feet on the way to revolution but made the most of every opportunity to assert and defend the hard-won inheritance of their ancestors. Moreover, Lexington was not rent by factions and troubled by the local animosities that so disturbed the peace in Concord. Supported by a community that had longed challenged British authority and fomented rebellion, the militia on Lexington’s common stood in, and for, unity.

Surprisingly long overdue, an analysis of Lexington’s social, demographic, political, religious, and ideological characteristics as against Concord’s sheds light on the communities’ radically different responses to imperial crisis, whereas identifying their commonalities reveals the shared motivations that prompted the inhabitants of both towns, when finally pressed, to take up arms against the forces of their king.
This article is available for downloading as a P.D.F. file. What’s more, Fuhrer and Gross discuss their findings and interpretations in a podcast discussion with William Fowler.

(The photo above, courtesy of Bill Coughlin and the Historical Marker Database, shows Lexington’s recreated colonial belfry.)

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