About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for 1774: The Long Year of Revolution

November 17, 2020

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this forum focused on two of the most consequential, yet often understated, years in our nation’s history: 1774 and 1775.

Before we get to our program, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Wednesday, November 18, at 3 p.m., we will partner with the Capital Jewish Museum to present a panel discussion on Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis and Social Justice.

And on Thursday, November 19, at noon, author Barnes Carr will discuss his recent book, The Lenin Plot: The Untold Story of America’s Midnight War Against Russia.

To keep informed about events throughout the year, check our website, Archives.gov. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities. Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Check out their website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about them and join online.

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As we know, revolutions do not spring from a vacuum but out of years of foment, debate, and skirmish. Too often we study signature turning points in history—the storming of the Bastille, the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the battle of Lexington and Concord—to the detriment of the events leading up to them.

We are pleased this evening to join with the Concord Museum to celebrate the opening of its new April 19, 1775 permanent exhibit and the launch of its new Shot Heard Round the World website. Our primary speaker tonight is Mary Beth Norton, the Mary Donlon Alger Professor Emerita of American History at Cornell University.

Professor Norton’s new book, 1774: The Long Year of Revolution, is born out of her dissertation and first book, The British-Americans: The Loyalist Exiles in England, 1774–1789, which was published in 1972—and should thus encourage all of us to finally write the book that has been ruminating in our minds since the early days of our professional lives!

In that interim, Professor Norton enjoyed a legendary career at Cornell University, where she was the first woman ever to teach in Cornell’s history department. She founded the university’s Women’s Studies Program and has written a number of award-winning books about women’s history across the 17th century including

Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society;

In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692; and

Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women.

Her newest book looks at the critical months between the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 to the days just before the first battles of April 1775 and demonstrates that the founding era is not one in which everyone agreed.

It is a pleasure to welcome tonight’s moderator back to the National Archives. Tom Putnam is the former director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and served as the acting director of the Office of Presidential Libraries before he chose to abandon the 20th century, having been wooed by the siren song of Concord’s reformers, Transcendentalists, and revolutionaries. He is a good friend, and his contributions to the nation’s Presidential Library System remain manifold.

Let me conclude by expressing appreciation to our other co-sponsors: the National Endowment for the Humanities, the America 250 Foundation, and the United States Semiquincentennial Commission. After the hour-long forum to discuss Professor Norton’s new book, representatives from those institutions will speak as part of the launch of the Concord Museum’s new Shot Heard Round the World website.

Now let’s hear from Mary Beth Norton and Tom Putnam. Thank you for joining us today.