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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Monday, June 19, 2017

Wright on “Pedagogues and Protesters” in Boston, 20 June

On Tuesday, 20 June, Conrad E. Wright will speak at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston about the confrontation at the heart of his new book, Pedagogues and Protesters: The Harvard College Student Diary of Stephen Peabody, 1767-1768.

The publisher explains:
On April 4, 1768, about one hundred angry Harvard College undergraduates, well over half the student body, left school and went home, in protest against new rules about class preparation. Their action constituted the largest student strike at any colonial American college.

Many contemporaries found the cause trivial and the students’ decision inexplicable, but in the undergraduates’ own minds it was the culmination of months of tensions with the faculty.

Pedagogues and Protesters recounts the year in daily journal entries by Stephen Peabody, a member of the class of 1769. The best surviving account of colonial college life, Peabody’s journal documents relationships among students, faculty members, and administrators, as well as the author’s relationships with other segments of Massachusetts society.

To a full transcription of the entries, Conrad Edick Wright adds detailed annotation and an introduction that focuses on the journal’s revealing account of daily life at America’s oldest college.
Peabody (1741-1819) was in his late twenties in this academic year while most undergraduates of the time were in their mid- to late teens. Peabody was also six feet tall, recalled as “large and commanding.” (Here’s his portrait in 1809, painted by John Johnson because Gilbert Stuart was too expensive.) So it’s no wonder he was one of the leaders of the students’ protest.

Conrad Wright is the Worthington C. Ford Editor and Director of Research at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Among his duties there is editing Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, a series of detailed biographical profiles of every person to be admitted to Harvard in the seventeenth and (so far) eighteenth centuries. He’s also the author of Revolutionary Generation: Harvard Men and the Consequences of Independence, a study of the men who left the college in the crucial war years. Wright is thus a prime source of information about life at Harvard during the tumult of the Revolution.

This event will begin at 5:30 P.M. with a reception. Wright will speak at 6:00 and sign books afterward. The talk is free, but the M.H.S. asks people to register in advance.

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