At the dawn of the 19th century, descendants of the original Puritan settlers of Boston began to adopt a more enlightened, cosmopolitan, and progressive set of social and political mores. Taking their name from the elite upper caste of India, the "brahmins" of Boston presided over several decades of economic and social upheaval, which saw the birth of Unitarianism and the rise of fervent Abolitionism leading, eventually, to the Civil War. During this three-hour walking seminar, we'll look at how this group of Bostonians redefined their city and set the tone for rest of America during this period.
Although the focus of our walk will be Beacon Hill and the Boston Common, we begin just down slope at the Old South Meeting House, one of the oldest churches in Boston and the place where the Boston Tea Party was planned. Here we'll get our bearings with a brief overview of some of the social and political developments in Boston at the turn of the century (the turn of the 19th, that is).
During our walk, one theme we'll address is how the Brahmin classes began to look outward, beyond Boston, to the world at large. Whether through immigration, trade, or intellectual curiosity, Boston under the Brahmins became much more situated in an international context. We'll begin looking at this with the Irish Famine memorial here in front of the Old South Meeting House and continue with a visit to the Boston Atheneum, the city's most prestigious membership library that is infused with Italian sculpture, French maps, and testimonials of the Brahmin's great love affair with the Grand European tour.
Our walk will take us into the heart of Beacon Hill. We'll discuss the architectural and urban planning context of this beguiling neighborhood, and visit such key landmarks as the Boston Common and State House. We'll stop by the African Meeting House and Shaw Memorial to discuss the central role that Abolitionism played in Boston at this time and the effect of the Civil War on the city. We will also look closely at Jewish history in Boston and stop by the Vilna Shul/Boston Center for Jewish Heritage, where some of our docents have been involved in archaeological research.
After meandering through this neighborhood and visiting several other historic homes, we'll wind up in the Boston Common, the central landscape of Boston and a perfect denouement to our discussion of this city, its inhabitants, and their crucial role in American history.