Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nonfiction (History) - Ten Tea Parties by Joseph Cummins

Full title: Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot
Publisher: Quirk
Date: January 17, 2012
Format: hardback
Acquired: from GoodReads First Look
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review.)
Pages: 214
Reading time: ten days

From GoodReads: Every kid knows the story of 1773’s Boston Tea Party, in which colonists ambushed three British ships and dumped 92,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. But do you know the story of the New Jersey Tea Party (December 1773)? How about the Annapolis Tea Party (October 1774) or the Charleston Tea Party (November 1774)? Revolutionary America was full of these spirited protests—and Ten Tea Parties is the first book to chronicle all of them. Author and historian Joseph Cummins begins with the history of the East India Company (the biggest global corporation of the 18th century) and its staggering financial losses during the Boston Tea Party (more than $1 million worth of tea in today’s money). From there we travel to Philadelphia, where 8,000 colonists gathered on Christmas Day threatening to tar and feather the captain of a ship. Then we set sail for New York City, North Carolina, Maine, and other unexpected destinations. This gifty volume of popular history concludes with a discussion of how Americans have returned again and again to the tea party as a symbol of political protest. 

My review: I must admit, even as a history buff I'd only heard of the Boston, Edenton, and Charleston tea parties, so this book proved enlightening. Cummins places the tea parties in the context of the greater issues of the time - Britain's post-Seven Years' War economic problems, Parliament's taxation of the colonies, and the East India Company's monopoly and bail-out by the British government. He draws some interesting parallels with America's current economic and political situation, too. Also important is how the tea parties, though performed by separate groups sometimes months or even over a year apart, were a colonies-wide movement that served to help unite many of the American colonists against British rule.

Ten Tea Parties is not scholarly-written, nor does it claim to be. There is a bibliography in the back and some primary sources are quoted, but there are no footnotes or other indications as to where, exactly, information came from. Cummins writes in a way that is easily understandable to both academics and the general public, and the information he presents in the book is generally concise and does not contain an overload of details. Cummins obviously did his research, but, fortunately, he did not attempt to squish all of it into this one short book as some historians have been wont to do.

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