March 5th marked the 249th anniversary of the Boston Massacre. Over the past three weeks, Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast about Early American History has explored this event and its complicated history with scholars Eric Hinderaker, Patrick Griffin, and Mitch Kachun.
In episode 228, “The Boston Massacre,” Eric Hinderaker, distinguished professor of History at the University of Utah and the author of Boston’s Massacre, begins the series by revealing what the Boston Massacre was, when it took place, and what we know about its participants. According to Hinderaker, Boston was “the only community in British North America capable of generating the kind of political event the Boston Massacre became.” Hinderaker leads listeners on an exploration of the colonial and imperial reactions to the Massacre and considers the ways both Bostonians and British officials used the Massacre to further their causes.
But why did the Boston Massacre happen? Why did the British government feel it had little choice but to station as many 2,000 soldiers in Boston during peacetime? And what was going on within the larger British Empire that drove colonists to the point where they provoked armed soldiers to fire upon them? Patrick Griffin, the Madden-Hennebry Family Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and author of The Townshend Moment: The Making of Empire and Revolution in the Eighteenth Century, answers these questions and provides listeners with the larger imperial context of the Massacre in episode 229, “The Townshend Moment.” As Griffin’s discussion of the Townshend brothers and their imperial policies shows, we can’t understand the Boston Massacre and the American Revolution without first understanding the Townshend Moment.
Finally, Mitch Kachun, Professor of History at Western Michigan University and the author of First Martyr of Liberty: Crispus Attucks in American Memory, wraps up the series with episode 230, “First Martyr of Liberty” with a discussion of the creation and use of the Boston Massacre’s memory and of the memory of its first victim, Crispus Attucks. During Kachun’s episode he reveals who Crispus Attucks was and the facts and mythologies about his life, why Attucks disappeared from the historical record after March 5, 1770, and why Attucks and the Boston Massacre reappeared in Americans’ historical memory after the 1840s.
Be sure to listen to all three episodes and for more subscribe to Ben Franklin’s World wherever you get your podcasts, and spread the word!