The History of Boston

Paul Revere Statue

Boston is one of the most historic cities in the United States. Older than the United States itself by more than a century, Boston has been the site of some of the most significant events in U.S. history. As one of the country's biggest cities and the center of the New England region, Boston will surely play host to many other historic events as the United States proceeds well into its third century.

Boston was founded in 1630 by the Puritans. The Puritans were a group of breakaway English Protestants who had the backing of investors in England hoping to import goods and natural resources from the so-called "New World" of North America. Early Boston was a fundamentally Puritan city, and Puritan theology's emphasis on hard work and education led the colonists to found Boston Latin School, the first European school in North America, and the famous Harvard College. Both institutions, founded in the 1630s just after the Puritans' arrival, still exist to this day. Boston Common also stems from the Puritan era; while today Boston Common is the city's most revered public square, it was used for public hangings in colonial days.

As England's North American colonies became larger and more profitable, the English government began to exert more and more control over its colonial inhabitants. This eventually led to the revolution that founded the United States of America. The "Boston Massacre," in which British soldiers fired at an unarmed group of protesters in downtown Boston, helped to crystallize revolutionary sentiment throughout the U.S. Shortly thereafter, to protest a tax on tea levied by the English government, Bostonians dumped boxes of English tea into Boston Harbor in what is known as the "Boston Tea Party." This was one of the key events that led to all-out war between the United States and England.

After the shock of the American Revolution had worn off, Boston in the 1800s quickly became a center for manufacturing and shipping and grew into one of the largest cities in the United States. While the descendants of the original English colonists remained the social elite of the city, many immigrants from Ireland and Italy came to Boston, with their cultures a large part of what informs modern Boston today. Boston also became a center of cultural achievement, with famed American authors Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow producing some of their best work in Boston.

In the 20th century, Boston suffered an economic downturn in the middle of the century due to the decline of United States' manufacturing base. Within a few decades, Boston had recovered, but became notorious throughout the country after the forced racial integration of Boston public schools was vigorously opposed by local residents. In the 21st century, Boston remains a singular locale in the United States: one of America's oldest cities, with a history tracing back almost 400 years, yet constantly fighting to transform itself to face the challenges of a new world.