Established by the elder John Winthrop in 1630 as the main settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Company, Boston was an early center of American Puritanism, with a vigorous, if theocratic, intellectual life. The nation's oldest public school, Boston Latin, was opened in 1635; Harvard, the nation's oldest college, was founded at Cambridge in 1636; a public library was started in 1653; and the first newspaper in the colonies, the Newsletter, appeared in 1704. With its excellent port, Boston held commercial ascendancy in colonial Massachusetts. As the American Revolution approached, it became a center of opposition to the British. The Battle of Bunker Hill, fought in Charlestown on June 17, 1775, was one of the first battles of the Revolution, and Boston was occupied until the British withdrew in Mar., 1776. After a short postwar depression, Boston entered a period of prosperity that lasted until the mid-19th cent. Its ships made Boston known around the world. Prominent families built substantial houses on Beacon Hill, later in the reclaimed Back Bay section, and patronized the arts and letters. Despite the generally conservative tone of their culture, they backed reformers, notably the abolitionists. The growth of industry in the mid 19th cent. brought many immigrants, and Boston changed from a commercial city of primarily British stock to a manufacturing center with an Irish majority, evolving gradually into the diverse, institutionally based city of today.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.