Defiance of the Patriots

Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party & the Making of Modern America by Benjamin L. Carp

Thanks to an event going on at the Graduate Center, I was able to get my hands on an early copy of Ben Carp’s new book on the (real) Boston Tea Party. It is very good book and especially good narrative history of Boston Tea Party. Though I am not super familiar of the historiography of this event, I think that Carp’s strongest contribution is bringing out the global context of the Tea Party. Carp goes beyond conflict between Boston and London and shows how the Tea Party has origins in international trade, financial bailouts (timely!) and coerced labor. Carp also does an excellent job tracing the political divisions in Boston – why some where patriots and others were ‘friends of the government’.

However, Carp’s narrative has a couple of (minor) problems. First, in the beginning chapters Carp loses the narrative thread. By going forwards-backwards-forwards-backwards in his first three or four chapters, Carp’s mastery of the chronology of events is lost. It is difficult to track events as he unfolds them – a big problem in a narrative history. On a more historiographical note, I wish Carp had developed the theme of gender more. There is some interesting things in the background (such as women’s memory of the Tea Party in the 19th century) but it remains a secondary concern. I think Carp’s overall discussion would have been more valuable if those interesting threads had been more fleshed out. That said this book was quite excellent.

Now since this is a “relevant” topic for a book at the moment, Carp has a bit to say in his argument that modern (fake) Tea Partiers should note of. Carp argues persuasively that while the Patriots were serious in their evocations of liberty and denouncing of British taxation, they failed to consider the how their own freedom and culture of consumption was underwritten by oppression of others. Hopefully, those in evoking the memory of this event will benefit from hindsight.

Or not.


Author: Roy Rogers

I am currently a PhD candidate in American History at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). My undergraduate education was at Shepherd University (Political Science & History) and I received an MA in History from George Mason University. As a historian, my research interests include early American history, the early American republic (1780 to 1830), political history, religious history, and gender history. I live in Brooklyn with my girlfriend and our cat.

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