Brooke Barbier at Harvard Book Store
The Radical Influence of a
Moderate Founding Father
October 25, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes historian BROOKE BARBIER—author and founder of Ye Olde Tavern Tours, a popular guided outing along Boston’s renowned Freedom Trail—for a discussion of her new book King Hancock: The Radical Influence of a Moderate Founding Father.
About King Hancock
Americans are surprisingly more familiar with his famous signature than with the man himself. In this spirited account of John Hancock’s life, Brooke Barbier depicts a patriot of fascinating contradictions―a child of enormous privilege who would nevertheless become a voice of the common folk; a pillar of society uncomfortable with radicalism who yet was crucial to independence. About two-fifths of the American population held neutral or ambivalent views about the Revolution, and Hancock spoke for them and to them, bringing them along.
Orphaned young, Hancock was raised by his merchant uncle, whose business and vast wealth he inherited―including household slaves, whom Hancock later freed. By his early thirties, he was one of New England’s most prominent politicians, earning a place on Britain’s most-wanted list and the derisive nickname King Hancock. While he eventually joined the revolution against England, his ever moderate―and moderating―disposition would prove an asset after 1776. Barbier shows Hancock appealing to southerners and northerners, Federalists and Anti-Federalists. He was a famously steadying force as president of the fractious Second Continental Congress. He parlayed with French military officials, strengthening a key alliance with his hospitable diplomacy. As governor of Massachusetts, Hancock convinced its delegates to vote for the federal Constitution and calmed the fallout from the shocking Shays’s Rebellion.
An insightful study of leadership in the revolutionary era, King Hancock traces a moment when passion was on the side of compromise and accommodation proved the basis of profound social and political change.
Praise for King Hancock
“A terrific book. Barbier’s meticulous research sheds light on how one of the wealthiest men of his time made himself into a man of the people―a politician whose genuine capacity for sensing the popular mood commanded fierce loyalty, even as he clashed with both Loyalists and radical Patriots. John Hancock was an important figure, and this biography helps restore him to his proper place. ”―Robert J. Allison, author of The American Revolution: A Very Short Introduction
“Barbier has written a fine biography, carefully guiding readers through Hancock’s life, his political career, and the world around him. In our politically polarized times, this founding father’s legacy of political moderation is sure to resonate.” ―Benjamin L. Carp, author of The Great New York Fire of 1776: A Lost Story of the American Revolution
“In this lively and insightful biography, Barbier illuminates John Hancock’s mastery of popular politics in an age of revolution. Drawing on a rich and profound knowledge of eighteenth-century Boston, she recovers the social world of a leader whose skills extended far beyond his celebrated penmanship.” ―Alan Taylor, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750–1804
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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