Igniting Independence: Pyrophobia and Crowd Action in Eighteenth Century Boston.
Sokol, Rebekah Bari.
- One of the most predominant fears in America in the eighteenth century was of fire. An equalizer of all social classes and economic strata in its wake, fires surged through Boston on numerous occasions. Fire was terrifying unto itself, but colonists also feared the use of fire as a weapon, especially if they thought those setting fires did so on behalf of a vast conspiracy. Americans over time dev... read moreeloped the danger of fire into a symbol for the Revolution, and even government supporters used the symbol to describe the colonists' behavior. Everyone in Britain and in Boston had a working definition of fire, but when that fire became a weapon or a signal for crowd actions in the 1760s, bonfires and gatherings under the pretense of extinguishing a blaze gained added significance. Crowds used fire as a way to assemble groups, terrify their opponents, and demonstrate their mounting frustrations with British rule. Further, British crowd action in 1780 demonstrated a flow of information stemming from America; Britons noticed American fire usage and adopted the symbol for their own causes. The revolutionary spirit of crowds continued to influence civilian and government interactions even following the War, and the crowd's use of fire survives as a symbol of American ingenuity and the power of the common peopleread less