Boston (pronounced ) is the capital and largest city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. Boston also serves as county seat of Suffolk County. The city proper covers with an estimated population of 645,966 in 2014, making it the largest city in New England and the 24th largest city in the United States. The city is the anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area called Greater Boston, home to 4.5 million people and the tenth-largest metropolitan area in the country. Greater Boston as a commuting region is home to 7.6 million people, making it the sixth-largest Combined Statistical Area in the United States.
One of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston was founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from England. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Siege of Boston. Upon American independence from Great Britain, the city continued to be an important port and manufacturing hub, as well as a center for education and culture. Through land reclamation and municipal annexation, Boston has expanded beyond the original peninsula. Its rich history helps attract many tourists, with Faneuil Hall alone attracting over 20 million visitors. Boston's many firsts include the United States' first public school, Boston Latin School (1635), and first subway system (1897).
The area's many colleges and universities make Boston an international center of higher education and medicine, and the city is considered to be a world leader in innovation for a variety of reasons. Boston's economic base also includes finance, professional and business services, and government activities. The city has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, though it remains high on world livability rankings. Boston is one of the eight cities in the United States considered an 'alpha city' by the study GaWC5.
Boston's early European settlers had first called the area Trimountaine (after its "three mountains"—only traces of which remain today) but later renamed it Boston after Boston, Lincolnshire, England, from which several prominent colonists had come. The renaming, on September 7, 1630 (old style), was by Puritan colonists from England, who had moved over from Charlestown earlier that year in quest of fresh water. Their settlement was initially limited to the Shawmut Peninsula, at that time surrounded by the Massachusetts Bay and Charles River and connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. The peninsula is known to have been inhabited as early as 5000 BC.
In 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Colony's first governor, John Winthrop, led the signing of the Cambridge Agreement, a key founding document of the city. Puritan ethics and their focus on education influenced its early history; America's first public school was founded in Boston in 1635. Over the next 130 years, the city participated in four French and Indian Wars, until the British defeated the French and their native allies in North America. Boston was the largest town in British North America until Philadelphia grew larger in the mid 18th century.
Many of the crucial events of the American Revolution—the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's "midnight ride", the battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, the Siege of Boston, and many others—occurred in or near Boston. After the Revolution, Boston's long seafaring tradition helped make it one of the world's wealthiest international ports, with rum, fish, salt, and tobacco being particularly important.
The Embargo Act of 1807, adopted during the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 significantly curtailed Boston's harbor activity. Although foreign trade returned after these hostilities, Boston's merchants had found alternatives for their capital investments in the interim. Manufacturing became an important component of the city's economy, and by the mid-19th century, the city's industrial manufacturing overtook international trade in economic importance. Until the early 20th century, Boston remained one of the nation's largest manufacturing centers and was notable for its garment production and leather-goods industries. A network of small rivers bordering the city and connecting it to the surrounding region facilitated shipment of goods and led to a proliferation of mills and factories. Later, a dense network of railroads furthered the region's industry and commerce.
During this period Boston flourished culturally as well, admired for its rarefied literary life and generous artistic patronage, with members of old Boston families—eventually dubbed Boston Brahmins—coming to be regarded as the nation's social and cultural elites. Boston also became a center of the abolitionist movement. The city reacted strongly to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, contributing to President Franklin Pierce's attempt to make an example of Boston after the Anthony Burns Fugitive Slave Case.
In 1822, the citizens of Boston voted to change the official name from "the Town of Boston" to "the City of Boston", and on March 4, 1822, the people of Boston accepted the charter incorporating the City. At the time Boston was chartered as a city, the population was about 46,226, while the area of the city was only .
In the 1820s, Boston's population grew rapidly, and the city's ethnic composition changed dramatically with the first wave of European immigrants. Irish immigrants dominated the first wave of newcomers during this period, especially following the Irish Potato Famine; by 1850, about 35,000 Irish lived in Boston. In the latter half of the 19th century, the city saw increasing numbers of Irish, Germans, Lebanese, Syrians, French Canadians, and Russian and Polish Jews settled in the city. By the end of the 19th century, Boston's core neighborhoods had become enclaves of ethnically distinct immigrants—Italians inhabited the North End, Irish dominated South Boston and Charlestown, and Russian Jews lived in the West End. Irish and Italian immigrants brought with them Roman Catholicism. Currently, Catholics make up Boston's largest religious community, and since the early 20th century, the Irish have played a major role in Boston politics—prominent figures include the Kennedys, Tip O'Neill, and John F. Fitzgerald.
Between 1631 and 1890, the city tripled its area through land reclamation by filling in marshes, mud flats, and gaps between wharves along the waterfront. The largest reclamation efforts took place during the 19th century; beginning in 1807, the crown of Beacon Hill was used to fill in a 50-acre (20 ha) mill pond that later became the Haymarket Square area. The present-day State House sits atop this lowered Beacon Hill. Reclamation projects in the middle of the century created significant parts of the South End, the West End, the Financial District, and Chinatown. After The Great Boston Fire of 1872, workers used building rubble as landfill along the downtown waterfront. During the mid-to-late 19th century, workers filled almost 600 acres (2.4 km2) of brackish Charles River marshlands west of Boston Common with gravel brought by rail from the hills of Needham Heights. The city annexed the adjacent towns of South Boston (1804), East Boston (1836), Roxbury (1868), Dorchester (including present day Mattapan and a portion of South Boston) (1870), Brighton (including present day Allston) (1874), West Roxbury (including present day Jamaica Plain and Roslindale) (1874), Charlestown (1874), and Hyde Park (1912). Other proposals, for the annexation of Brookline, Cambridge, and Chelsea, were unsuccessful.
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