Kenneth Lockridge, A New England Town: The First Hundred Years (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1970)
Many historical texts about the American Revolution and the events leading up to it are generalized, unspecific and do not investigate the preliminary causes of the changes America underwent before the Revolution. However, A New England Town by Professor Kenneth Lockridge attempts to describe how the colonies in America developed by following the progress of a typical Puritan colonial town, Dedham, Massachusetts, from its inception in 1636 through its first one hundred years. It is Lockridge’s belief that colonial history can be better learned through thoroughly examining one specific town instead of shallowly studying many. Because the development of Dedham was mirrored throughout New England, it proves to be the perfect case study to observe the changes that occurred during that time period in each American colony. Lockridge states that Dedham’s history is duplicated in other towns “to a great extent” and by enlarging this history, it reveals that “this part of colonial America was moving away from a powerful, corporate impulse deeply indebted to the European past, toward an age of pluralism, individualism, and liberty” (165).
The story of Dedham begins like any other New England town: a group of Puritans from petitioned the General Court of the colony for a grant of land south of Watertown, Massachusetts in 1635. Originally, the name the founders gave their “plantation” was Contentment, but the Court renamed it Dedham and they were then given “nearly 200 square miles of wilderness” that “stretched from the south-western boundary of Boston down to what was to become of the Rhode Island border” (4). Lockridge proceeds to explain how and why Dedham grows, evolves, and influences America today and preceding the Revolution. The book is broken up into three main sections: the first follows the town from its birth in 1636 until 1686, the second...
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