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, May 21, 2019

Somos on the “State of Nature" in Boston and Quincy

Mark Somos, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow and Senior Research Affiliate at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, is visiting the Boston area this week to speak about his book American States of Nature: The Origins of Independence, 1761-1775.

The event description:
The “state of nature” refers to mankind’s pre-political condition; interstate relations; nudity; hell; or innocence. The term appeared in these senses thousands of times in juridical, theological, medical, political, economic, and other texts produced in the British American colonies between 1630 and 1810.

By the 1760s, a coherent and distinctively American state of nature discourse started to emerge. It combined existing meanings and sidelined others in moments of intense contestation, such as the Stamp Act crisis of 1765-66 and the First Continental Congress of 1774. In laws, resolutions, petitions, sermons, broadsides, pamphlets, letters and diaries, the American state of nature, where the colonists’ natural rights became collective rights, came to justify independence as much as formulations of liberty, property, and individual rights did.

The founding generation deliberately transformed this flexible concept into a powerful theme that shapes US constitutional and international law to this day. No constitutional history of the Revolution can be written without it.
On Wednesday, 22 May, Somos will speak at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. That event begins with a reception at 5:30 P.M., and the lecture is scheduled for 6:00. Admission is $10, free to M.H.S. Fellows and Members and E.B.I.T. cardholders. Register here.

On Thursday, 23 May, Somos will speak in the carriage house at Adams National Historical Park, 135 Adams Street in Quincy. That event will start at 7:00 P.M. This talk is free and doesn’t require reservations.

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