George Washington Prize Finalist
Winner of the Society of the Cincinnati Prize
“Fascinating… Hinderaker’s meticulous research shows that the Boston Massacre was contested from the beginning… [Its] meanings have plenty to tell us about America’s identity, past and present.”
—Wall Street Journal
On the night of March 5, 1770, British soldiers fired into a crowd gathered in front of Boston’s Custom House, killing five people. Denounced as an act of unprovoked violence and villainy, the event that came to be known as the Boston Massacre is one of the most famous and least understood incidents in American history. Eric Hinderaker revisits this dramatic confrontation, examining in forensic detail the facts of that fateful night, the competing narratives that molded public perceptions at the time, and the long campaign to transform the tragedy into a touchstone of American identity.
“Hinderaker brilliantly unpacks the creation of competing narratives around a traumatic and confusing episode of violence. With deft insight, careful research, and lucid writing, he shows how the bloodshed in one Boston street became pivotal to making and remembering a revolution that created a nation.”
—Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions
“Seldom does a book appear that compels its readers to rethink a signal event in American history. It’s even rarer…to accomplish so formidable a feat in prose of sparkling clarity and grace. Boston’s Massacre is a gem.”
—Fred Anderson, author of Crucible of War
Fascinating…Hinderaker’s meticulous research shows that the Boston Massacre was contested from the beginning…[Its] contested meanings have plenty to tell us about America’s identity, past and present.
In Boston’s Massacre, Eric Hinderaker brilliantly unpacks the creation of competing narratives around a traumatic and confusing episode of violence. With deft insight, careful research, and lucid writing, Hinderaker shows how the bloodshed in one Boston street became pivotal to making and remembering a revolution that created a nation.
Seldom does the book appear that compels its readers both to rethink a signal event in American history and reexamine powerful assumptions about historical knowledge itself. It’s even rarer for an author to accomplish so formidable a feat in prose of sparkling clarity and grace. But this is such a book, and Eric Hinderaker just such an author: Boston’s Massacre is a gem.
Hinderaker illuminates the events of March 5, 1770, from a host of unexpected angles, from its military origins and the possibility of an additional shooter, to the Kent State comparison that thrust itself upon the nation two hundred years later.
Eric Hinderaker widens our understanding of the Boston Massacre and the origins of the American Revolution. By setting this stirring event in the context of New England’s involvement in Britain’s colonial wars, and by depicting the occupying British army as a social force of considerable power, this elegant book gives us a far richer account of how military occupation pushed Boston into rebellion.
In his examination of the 1770 Boston Massacre, Hinderaker deftly explores the characters of British leaders, American administrators, and those who stirred what many considered a mob…The author ably exposes the symbolic import of the massacre as it defined the limits of legitimate authority and of legitimate popular protest.
Hinderaker claims no definitive version of the event, instead offering a thoughtful meditation on the episode’s significance for shared American identity and memory. Untangling the complex circumstances under which Britain stationed thousands of troops in Boston in the peacetime of 1768, Hinderaker maps the colonial anxieties regarding imperial control that came to a head with the shootings…He ends with a provocative…reflection on the massacre’s symbolic resonance with more recent examples of police brutality, making this book important reading for anyone interested in questions regarding the limits of authority and protest.
Readers are left with a nuanced understanding of the way we shape historical narratives after any major event… A compelling and well-researched account of the Boston Massacre, for readers seeking more refined studies of early American history.
Using the Boston Massacre as a case study, [Hinderaker] highlights how moments of extreme intensity shape an observer’s understanding of that moment and the subsequent narratives that followed.
In this engaging study, Eric Hinderaker offers a masterclass in how to peel back the layers of data, scholarship, and propaganda to understand what we call the Boston Massacre…Thanks to Hinderaker we learn how over the past 250 years the Boston Massacre has been refought, rethought, or quietly restated.
- 2018, Winner of the Society of the Cincinnati Prize
- 384 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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