Event—Public Programming

The City-State of Boston: Refiguring Colonial American History


Mark Peterson reframes Boston's early history as the story of the development of an autonomous city-state in the colonial period.

Join us as Mark Peterson discusses Boston and New England's entry into the United States as contingent, not necessarily beneficial, and not the meaning or the fulfillment of its history. By recasting the story in this way, Peterson will bring to light elements of Boston’s past that United States national history has obscured, and uncover a more authentic understanding of the colonial past, attending to what was lost as well as what was produced in the making of the United States.

After his talk, Dr. Peterson will sign copies of the book, which will be available for purchase in the Newberry's Rosenberg Bookshop.

Mark Peterson is the Edmund S. Morgan Professor of History at Yale University. His talk is based on his latest book, The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630-1865 (Princeton University Press, 2019). He is also the author of The Price of Redemption: The Spiritual Economy of Puritan New England (Stanford University Press, 1997).

The City-State of Boston: The Rise and Fall of an Atlantic Power, 1630-1865 is 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 clichés, 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 slavery and ratification of the Constitution—it would tragically lose integrity and autonomy as it became incorporated into the greater United States.

Download a PDF flyer for this program to post and distribute, and check out a Quick Guide to materials related to Colonial America in the Newberry collection.

Cosponsored with the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Illinois in partnership with the University of Illinois History Department.

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