... rich and highly enjoyable ... The entire 29th regiment pitched its tents on the Boston Common. These scenes clearly pitted imperial power against colonial resistance, yet Ms. Zabin deepens our understanding by juxtaposing them with stories of real women and men trying to adjust to this awkward situation ... Among the many accomplishments of Ms. Zabin’s deep look at these interconnections is revealing the presence of black men and women in Boston’s daily life, a ubiquity that helps contextualize how the dockworker Crispus Attucks became one of the casualties of the Boston Massacre.
Zabin begins in Ireland, where women waited to find out if the British army would send them with their husbands to the American colony. Zabin’s research unearths fascinating details about these women, whose stories have not been told: about their fight to stay with husbands they worried they’d never see again and how they adjusted to life in America ... Memorable anecdotes also reveal how crucial the British women were to their country’s efforts ... Zabin’s writing is clear, even witty ... The result is a complex picture of a society where, yes, some were beginning to chafe under British rule but where others were happy to have that protection. Where, yes, officials told wives of the soldiers who were displaced after the massacre that the city was not obliged to provide for them since they weren’t citizens, but where the city ended up caring for some of them, anyway ... Also, we tend to view America as a country on the brink of war in this time period but Zabin finds details and anecdotes that depict Boston as it would have felt then, when there was no such thing as the American Revolutionary War, rather than as it looks to us now. Her Bostonians and Brits-in-Boston don’t think of each other as combatants or enemies of war. They think of each other as neighbors.
This is big-picture history told on a human scale. Generals, politicians, and other key players get their say, but Zabin is more interested in the lives of ordinary people, especially women. With the help of research assistants, she mined archival records to trace in remarkable detail the experiences of military wives ... presents stories of kindness and cruelty, celebration and loss, suffering and joy, and enriches our understanding of those whose lives would be shattered when the Revolution severed friendships and divided families.
Zabin changes this familiar story into a familial one. The result is a lively gem of a book that expands our views of early-modern military life, pre-revolutionary Boston, and, in turn, the American Revolution ... Although the fascinating testimonies Zabin details do not agree on how events unfolded, they do show that people encountered one another that evening as community members, rather than as faceless civilians and soldiers ... engaging.
By focusing on individual experiences, especially those of British army wives, Zabin highlights the role of women in this world and emphasizes the personal camaraderie that emerged on all social levels even as the military occupation raised tensions to a breaking point. By recovering such realities, she shows how the trials that followed the Boston Massacre were used as a first step in writing this 'cross-cultural community' out of history, a necessity for revolution. Zabin’s engaging history adds nuance and complexity to the political and social aspects of the American Revolution.
Zabin spends little time dissecting the massacre itself, which has been studied in detail by other scholars. Instead, the author focuses on the personal lives of those who contributed to the tensions between soldiers and citizens ... Zabin has done extensive research into the public records of several Revolutionary era archives and has compiled a compelling history of the Boston Massacre, weaving personal stories together to present a comprehensive view of this turning point incident.