The Boston Massacre: A Family Affair

April 12, 2023 ~ 7:30pm ET
Serena Zabin, Carleton College


The story of the Boston Massacre—when on a late winter evening in 1770, British soldiers shot five local men to death—is familiar to generations. But the history of the event has always obscured a fascinating truth: that the Massacre arose from conflicts that were as personal as they were political. Historian Serena Zabin weaves colorful stories from original sources, following British troops as they make their way from Ireland to Boston in 1768 to subdue the increasingly rebellious colonists. And she reveals a forgotten world hidden in plain sight: the many regimental wives and children who accompanied these armies. We see these families jostling with Bostonians for living space, finding common cause in the search for a lost child, trading barbs and sharing baptisms – becoming, in other words, neighbors. When soldiers shot unarmed citizens in the street, it was these intensely human, now broken bonds that fueled what quickly became a bitterly fought American Revolution.

Serena Zabin is a Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at Carleton College in Minnesota. She is the author of Dangerous Economies: Status and Commerce in Imperial New York and The New York Conspiracy Trials of 1741: Daniel Horsmanden’s Journal of the Proceedings and the author of The Boston Massacre: A Family Affair. She is also the codesigner of a serious video game about the Boston Massacre, Witness to the Revolution.

Serena Zabin, Carleton College/author