Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Witches, Rakes and Rogues

If you're interested in Boston's Colonial Era naughtiness, this is the book for you. Salem didn't have all the witches, and adultery, illegitimacy and divorce were not unknown to Boston's Puritans. Mix in swindlers, thieves and fraudsters, and the City on a Hill looks a little less upright. The book does suffer from a lack of documentation - we are going back three hundred years and more. This leaves some of the stories a bit thin. Not what I'd call a thrilling read, but interesting in a mild way.

Witches, Rakes and Rogues

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Book Review: Boston's Cycling Craze, 1880-1900

I read a book on the history of the bicycle last year, and wanted to get into greater detail about cycling in the United States, and especially here in Massachusetts. The title of this book made it seem exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the sub-title: A Story of Race, Sport, and Society. Actually,  with chapters about the bi-racial Kittie Knox, and chapter headings like Women's Cycling Clubs and the Movement to Oust Women from a Boston Club, Ethnic Cycling Stories, and African American Cyclists, this book would be more accurately titled A Progressive Whiggish History of Boston Cycling. And yes, I must confess that when I see the word 'gendered' in print, my sixty year old eyes roll back in my head. I'd love to know what Umberto Eco would do with the semiotics of such language. But that's just me.

If your interest in local history consists of reaching into the past to support your own political/ideological beliefs, and said beliefs are of the left-progressive color, then you should enjoy this book. It seems well documented, although it's not particularly systematic in its approach. That being said, history by anecdote is quite popular these days, so give it a try.

If, after I find a good book on the cycling craze of the late 19th century with a focus on Massachusetts, I want to look further into the subject, I'll come back to this book. The problem I have with it is no doubt the fault of the editor or marketing manager, not the author. The main title is simply deceptive, and led me to disappointment.

Boston's Cycling Craze, 1880-1900 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Book Review: King Philip's War

During some recent reading, I was reminded that I had little or no knowledge of the period and events known as King Philip's War, so I with this book to correct my ignorance. The book is structured into three sections. The first is a concise history of the events leading up to and including the war itself. Second is a guide to locations where various events occurred. The third gives excerpts from contemporary descriptions of the events, written by those who were there.

The closest Indian raids got to Boston were attacks on Braintree, Hingham and Sudbury. So why review this book on a Boston-centric blog? Both because Boston men fought in various militias, and because Indians were brought to Boston and executed on Boston Common. And as a final surprise to me, the author states that men mustered and trained on the Dedham Plain - that being the same site in today's Readville where the famous black 54th Regiment trained for the Civil War.

Although King Philip's War didn't reach Boston otherwise, it did scare the bejesus out of residents of Boston, Roxbury and other surrounding communities, and its outcome ended the need to deal with the native peoples in the area permanently. Recommended for those who want to know about the history of Massachusetts beyond the Tea Party and Paul Revere.

King Philip's War