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A Web Field Trip through United States History

Colonial Boston
From the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys of the Mound Builders, we travel to colonial Massachusetts and the town of Boston.  Through the 1600s and 1700s, Europeans immigrating to eastern North America followed different settlement patterns.  The dividing line for these differing patterns of settlement was the Pennsylvania-Maryland border or what eventually came to be known as the Mason-Dixon Line, beginning in 1767.  South of that border in the Chesapeake/Plantation Colonies (Maryland and Virginia) and the Southern Colonies (North and South Carolina and Georgia), most colonists chose to live in rural circumstances on plantations, first along the rivers and then into the interior, with their indentured servants and, later, African slaves.   Towns did emerge in small numbers to serve as commercial centers to ship cash crops, largely, to England and receive finished goods from England.  In contrast, north of that border in the Middle Colonies (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) and the New England Colonies (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island), most colonists preferred to live in towns.  Towns were so central to the lives of the colonists in New England that towns were basically colonies within colonies.  Boston was one of those towns which emerged to become one of the leading commercial ports in colonial America.

Founded in 1630, by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the mouth of the Charles River, Boston was part of an ambitious effort to establish a community that lived according to Puritan  religious values.  On the other hand, its good harbor made it an attractive, and eventually, an active cosmopolitan commercial center.  Until the mid-1700s, Boston was the leading town in the thirteen colonies with some 16,000 inhabitants.  In the latter 1700s, Boston would be surpassed by Philadelphia and New York, particularly since Boston experienced static population growth.  By 1775, Boston still had 16,000 inhabitants while Philadelphia had some 40,000.

By the mid to later 1700s, Boston shared much in common with other major colonial towns, such as New York and Philadelphia.  Most of streets, except for the major streets, were crooked, narrow, dirty and not paved.  Even in the colonial period, traffic was a problem, particularly when livestock was herded  through the streets.  Other problems affecting colonial town life included disposing of waste, fighting fires, particularly since most of the buildings were constructed of wood, caring for the poverty stricken, and obtaining inexpensive fuel or wood for the numerous fireplaces.

One of the advantages that Boston had was the town meeting form of government which gave colonists in Boston and in other New England towns considerable autonomy.  That autonomy helps to explain why Boston became such a center of colonial resistance and revolution in the years preceding the Declaration of Independence.  Boston was the site of numerous acts of resistance against British authority and British retaliation, specifically, non-importation agreements (1764), the organization of the Sons of Liberty (1765), British military occupation (1768), the Boston Massacre (1770), the Boston Tea Party (1773), punishment under the Coercive Acts (1774), and the Battle of Bunker/Breed's Hill (1775).

You will be visiting the Boston that was swept up in the resistance and revolutionary movement against Great Britain that led to the War of the American Revolution.

To make passage to Boston, please click on the URL for the Boston National Historical Park
http://www.nps.gov/bost.  To begin your tour of Revolutionary Boston, click on "Site Index" in the column located on the left of the screen.  At the "Site Index" screen , scroll down to "Places" and "Boston's Revolutionary War."  You will need to visit the following places in order by clicking on these names: "Old South Meeting House," "Old State House," "Paul Revere House," "Old North Church," "Bunker Hill Monument,"  and "Boston's Naval History." You may be able to return to the field trip transporter by clicking the Back command/arrow.  Please answer the following questions on the answer sheet.
1.    What religious denomination held services in the Old South Meeting House?
2.    What were three issues discussed at the Old South Meeting House?
3.    What event helped lead to the historical prominence of the Old South Meeting House?
4.    What event occurred near the Old State House?
5.    How old is the Paul Revere House and where is it located in Boston?
6.    Who hung the lanterns to warn patriots of the advance of British soldiers?
7.    What were the British and American casualties at the Battle of Bunker/Breed's Hill?
8.    How long was the Charleston Navy Yard in service?


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