History of Boston
Sometimes called “The Cradle of Liberty” for its role in instigating the American Revolution, Boston’s rich history had its beginnings in the 1630s when the Puritans established a settlement there. Boston was named by Massachusetts’ first deputy governor, Thomas Dudley, whose hometown was Boston, Lincolnshire, England. Once the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Company, Boston became home to 1,000 Puritans who had fled religious and political persecution in Europe. Later its inhabitants came to be called “Bostonians”.
In September 1630, the Puritans landed on the Shawmut Peninsula so named by the Native Americans who were living there. The Puritans called it Trimountaine until the town was renamed. It was the Massachusetts Bay Company’s original governor John Winthrop who preached the famous sermon called “A City upon a Hill.” Delivered prior to their departure from England in 1630, Winthrop spoke of the special covenant the Puritans had with God and of their actions which would be watched by the world.
Colonial rebellion led to revolution
Boston became the hotspot of unrest as colonists began to rebel against the heavy taxation levied upon them by the British Parliament. Colonists organized a boycott in response to the
Townshend Acts of 1767. which resulted in the so-called “Boston Massacre.” At the trial, it was determined that the redcoats had been drawn to fire upon the crowd. Originally thought to have been the catalyst for swaying the American public against the British, historians have recently decided that further unpopular British actions would have had to occur before a larger portion of the populace came to embrace the radical view of independence.
Other upheavals strongly influenced the colonists to raise arms to fight a war against the British. Samuel Adams and other radicals were involved in the Boston Tea Party that led to similar actions in other port cities up and down the Eastern seaboard and tended to polarize the sides in the widening dispute. Patriots and Loyalists each became more ardent about their views. Such Parliamentary acts as the Tea Act of 1773 and the Boston Port Act, passed in June 1774, attempted to bring order to Boston.
After the American Revolution, the town became one of the world’s wealthiest international trading ports, and descendants from old Boston families became the social and cultural elite called the “Boston Brahmins.”
In the 1820s, a rush of immigrants from Ireland and Italy began to change dramatically, the city’s ethnic composition. They brought with them a staunch Roman Catholicism.
Catholics currently comprise Boston’s largest religious community. The Irish Catholics in particular have played a significant role in Boston politics, with such prominent figures as John F. Kennedy and others.
Boston In the 20th Century
In 1919, the Boston Police Strike was just one in a series of labor stakes that took place across the country. Unions attempted to gain higher wages to adjust for wartime inflation. The largely Irish-American police force.organized in order to gain not only higher pay, but shorter hours and better working conditions. Failed attempts to reach an agreement with the City led to a strike of 1,100 officers on September 9, and eventually the Massachusetts National Guard was sent in by Governor Calvin Coolidge to restore the peace. Such actions aided in Coolidge’s nomination to the vice presidency in 1920.
By the mid-1900s, Boston fell into decline as major industrial factories relocated to areas where they could find a cheaper labor source. The city responded with urban renewal projects that led to the leveling of the old West End neighborhood and the construction of Government Center. In the 1970s, Boston encouraged diversification into the banking and investment fields, becoming a leader in the mutual fund industry.
Racial tensions were ignited in 1974, over the forced busing of students. It was an attempt to create a more balanced student body, especially in neighborhoods comprised of one ethnicity. The ensuing violence and unrest served to highlight racial tensions in the city.
Since that time, some of those ethnic neighborhoods have been transformed into housing for the wealthiest sectors of society. As a result, the city currently faces gentrification issues, as many modest or working-class neighborhoods have been eliminated. It is a common problem among older cities along the East coast.
Next time you’re walking around Boston, MA, take a tour with the Historic Walking Tour app!