Public Program- Robert A. Gross

Lectures and Performances
Thursday, October 17, 2002 - 7:30pm

Minutemen, Transcendentalists, and the Making of New England
By Robert Gross

black and white illustration of Concord Massachusetts
Concord, Massachusetts is often imagined as the archetypal New England town, a place of "plain living and high thinking" that embodies a Yankee heritage of community, liberty, and order. The Boston Globe called it "an ideal town" in 1909, ratifying a view that had been developed by local inhabitants and admiring outsiders over the course of the previous century and that has persisted to this day. The first Puritan settlement above tidewater, Concord claims to be the birthplace of two American revolutions. The first was the opening battle of the War for Independence, when Minutemen confronted British Regulars at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775; the second was the movement for intellectual independence associated with the Transcendentalist writers and residents Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. As home of Puritans, Minutemen, and Transcendentalists, Concord has come to symbolize the New England tradition at its best. Reality is, of course, more complicated, and it took a great deal of imagination, wishful thinking, and selective memory to produce this happy image. The Transcendentalists themselves contributed mightily to the effort. This lecture will trace the steps by which Concord became at once an American icon, regional symbol, and tourist site.

Robert A. Gross is the Mellon Distinguished Scholar in Residence at AAS. One of the most influential historians of his generation, Mr. Gross is the author of The Minutemen and their World and editor of In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion. He is the Forest D. Murden, Jr. Professor of History and American Studies at the College of William and Mary.

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