After the Siege

After the Siege: A Social History of Boston, 1775–1800 Jacqueline Barbara Carr 2004

About the Author
Jacqueline Carr, an Associate Professor in the Department of History at The University of Vermont, earned her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley in 1998. Professor Carr teaches the history of early America through three sequence courses: Colonial America, the American Revolution, and the Early Republic.

About the Book
During the late 1770s, Boston’s townspeople were struggling to rebuild a community devastated by British occupation, the ensuing siege by the Continental Army, and the Revolutionary war years. After the British attacked Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, Boston’s population plummeted from 15,000 civilians to less than 3,000, property was destroyed and plundered, and the economy was on the verge of collapse. How the once thriving colonial seaport and its demoralized inhabitants recovered in the wake of such demographic, physical, and economic ruin is the subject of this compelling and well-researched work.

Drawing on extensive primary sources, including ward tax assessors’ Taking Books, church records, census records, birth and marriage records, newspaper accounts, and town directories, Jacqueline Barbara Carr brings to life Boston’s remarkable rebirth as a flourishing cosmopolitan city at the dawn of the nineteenth century. She examines this watershed period in the city’s social and cultural history from the perspective of the town’s ordinary men and women, both white and African American, re-creating the determined community of laborers, artisans, tradesmen, mechanics, and seamen who demonstrated an incredible perseverance in reshaping their shattered town and lives.

Filled with fascinating and dramatic stories of hardship, conflict, continuity, and change, the engaging narrative describes how Boston rebounded in less than twenty-five years through the efforts of inhabitants who survived the ordeal of the siege, those who fled British occupation and returned after the war, and the influx of citizens from many different places seeking new opportunities in the growing city. Carr explores the complex forces that drove Boston’s transformation, taking into consideration such topics as the built environment and the town’s neighborhoods, the impact of town government on peoples’ lives, the day-to-day trials of restoring and managing the community, the effect of the post-war economy on work and daily life, and forms of leisure and theater entertainment.

After the Siege vividly recaptures a crucial yet often neglected chapter in the social history of Boston and the early republic.

“By putting many aspects of Boston’s social and political history under her microscope, Carr has added importantly to urban studies of early America.”–William and Mary Quarterly

“After the Siege neatly fills a long-standing gap in Boston’s record, and Carr’s readers will be grateful not only for her diligence and resourcefulness in ferreting out information from underused sources but also for her clear, engaging style.”–The Journal of American History

“After the Siege brings new attention to a much-neglected subject… no book-length study since 1849 has addressed the siege and its consequences, and the social aspects of Boston’s postwar reconstruction have never been adequately examined before. Into this breach steps Jacqueline Barbara Carr… whose new book is… gracefully written revision [and thoroughly researched.”–The New England Quarterly

Summary of Preface
Paul Revere’s house in the North End provides an image of what some of the town’s wooden houses looked like, but the charming brick structures that line the streets of the North End and the elegant brownstone buildings throughout other parts of town are of post-eighteenth-century origin.

The approximate perimeter of the old North End can still be walked if one follows sections of Commercial Street, and with a few good maps and a lot of patience it is possible to trace the town’s outline and stand approximately where the fortifications and gallows greeted visitors crossing Boston Neck.

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