Reinventing Boston: 1640-2003
The three largest cities in colonial America remain at the core of three of America’s largest metropolitan areas today. This paper asks how Boston has been able to survive despite repeated periods of crisis and decline. Boston has reinvented itself three times: in the early 19th century as the provider of seafaring human capital for a far flung maritime trading and fishing empire, in the late 19th century as a factory town built on immigrant labor and Brahmin capital, and finally in the late 20th century as a center of the information economy. In all three instances, human capital—admittedly of radically different forms—provided the secret to Boston’s rebirth. The history of Boston suggests that a strong base of skilled workers is a more reliable source of long-run urban health.
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