The Boston Massacre: A History with Documents

The Boston Massacre: A History with Documents

The Boston Massacre: A History with Documents

The Boston Massacre: A History with Documents

Synopsis

On March 5, 1770, after being harassed for two years during their occupation of Boston, British soldiers finally lost control, firing into a mob of rioting Americans, killing several of them, including Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave and sailor, the first African American patriot killed. The aftermath of this 'massacre' led to what was eventually the American Revolution. The importance of the event grew, as it was used for political purposes, to stoke the fires of rebellion in the colonists and to show the British in the most unflattering light.

The Boston Massacre gathers together the most important primary documents pertaining to the incident, along with images, anchored together with a succinct yet thorough introduction, to give students of the Revolutionary period access to the events of the massacre as they unfolded. Included are newspaper stories, the official transcript of the trial, letters, and maps of the area, as well as consideration of how the massacre is remembered today.

Excerpt

Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre is an iconic image. I suspect that most Americans have seen it somewhere—reproduced in a book, enlarged to a poster, or even reduced to a postcard. They would no doubt recognize it if they saw it again. They most likely would not remember when they saw it first, they might not know the details of what it depicts, but they do know that it shows British soldiers firing on American civilians and that it is somehow connected with the American Revolution. A few might even know that Revere’s graphic representation was done for political purposes and that there are questions about its accuracy. Beyond that they may not give it much thought.

Revere’s visual image is a document from the past, just the same as a written text. Working with texts is the stock in trade of professional historians. Sadly, over thehey once were, largely, I fear, because students dislike reading the documents inside. I have heard the groans of those who would rather not deal with Revolutionary Era writing. Most enjoy reading the Declaration of Independence but, stylistically, that text is pithy and direct—hardly typical of the age. Revolutionary Americans trying to make their case against what they considered British oppression more commonly wrote very long and sometimes turgid sentences, with many dependent clauses. Their arguments have to be read closely and patiently, not something that comes naturally to those who “twitter” their text messages.

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