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The City-State of Boston

by Mark Peterson

The City-State of Boston Synopsis

A groundbreaking history of early America that shows how Boston built and sustained an independent city-state in New England before being folded into the United States In the vaunted annals of America's founding, Boston has long been held up as an exemplary city upon a hill and the cradle of liberty for an independent United States. Wresting this iconic urban center from these misleading, tired cliches, The City-State of Boston highlights Boston's overlooked past as an autonomous city-state, and in doing so, offers a pathbreaking and brilliant new history of early America. Following Boston's development over three centuries, Mark Peterson discusses how this self-governing Atlantic trading center began as a refuge from Britain's Stuart monarchs and how-through its bargain with the slave trade and ratification of the Constitution-it would tragically lose integrity and autonomy as it became incorporated into the greater United States. Drawing from vast archives, and featuring unfamiliar figures alongside well-known ones, such as John Winthrop, Cotton Mather, and John Adams, Peterson explores Boston's origins in sixteenth-century utopian ideals, its founding and expansion into the hinterland of New England, and the growth of its distinctive political economy, with ties to the West Indies and southern Europe. By the 1700s, Boston was at full strength, with wide Atlantic trading circuits and cultural ties, both within and beyond Britain's empire. After the cataclysmic Revolutionary War, Bostoners aimed to negotiate a relationship with the American confederation, but through the next century, the new United States unraveled Boston's regional reign. The fateful decision to ratify the Constitution undercut its power, as Southern planters and slave owners dominated national politics and corroded the city-state's vision of a common good for all. Peeling away the layers of myth surrounding a revered city, The City-State of Boston offers a startlingly fresh understanding of America's history.

The City-State of Boston Press Reviews

[A] richly detailed history. * New Yorker * Remarkable. . . . [A] fresh and original interpretation of colonial New England [and] engagement with what are, in the end, fundamentally moral questions. The City-State of Boston is an engaging blend of small change and big ideas. ---John Turner, Patheos Peterson leads us through [Boston's] Enlightenment ideals and how they clashed with the city's links to the American South's slave-driven economy. A meaty, methodical exploration of a crucial American founding stronghold. * Kirkus * The most detailed and entertaining history of Boston that's been written so far. ---Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor An original and provocative take. . . . [The City State of Boston is] ambitious, fluid and worldly. ---Alex Beam, Wall Street Journal The City-State of Boston will be a landmark in the literature. . . . [It's a] powerful and compelling story. ---John L. Brooke, Journal of the Early Republic Mark Peterson's long-awaited The City-State of Boston presents a breath-taking thesis: Boston's history from its first English settlement through the American Civil War ought to be understood as the rise and fall of an independent city-state. . . . Peterson's description of the Constitution of the United States is startling. ---Mark Valeri, William and Mary Quarterly The City State of Boston is a is an ambitious work based on prodigious research. It provides a richly detailed narrative and includes an enormous cast of characters, some of whom will be familiar to readers, though many will not. ---Virginia DeJohn Anderson, Times Literary Supplement An immense, fresh history of the 'city upon a hill' conceives of the place as an independent city-state that was absorbed into the new country that arose around it. Boston's current moment-at once privileged and peculiar-suggests the value of considering its distinctive past in light of powerful, imaginative scholarship, in the deft hands of the author, now at Yale. * Harvard Magazine * Winner of the James P. Hanlan Book Prize, New England Historical Association

Book Information

ISBN: 9780691179995
Publication date: 23rd April 2019
Author: Mark Peterson
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 784 pages
Categories: Revolutions, uprisings, rebellions, Social & cultural history, History of the Americas,

About Mark Peterson

Mark Peterson is the Edmund S. Morgan Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of The Price of Redemption: The Spiritual Economy of Puritan New England.

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