Full course description

Course Date:

ends Dec. 31, 2015


8 weeks


4-5 hrs/week



Course Type:




Course Video


The course explores Boston from the 1600’s to the present day. Learn about the Massachusett Indians who lived on the land we now know as Boston before the Puritans arrived. Discover how these settlers created a system of self government so strong that Boston became the most democratic community on the planet and the birthplace of the Revolutionary War. Trace the city’s role in the American anti-slavery movement and the Civil War.

Understand how Boston remains revolutionary to this day, redefining education, the arts and medicine by creating some of the best museums, orchestras, hospitals and schools in the world.

The course includes a virtual tour of Boston, featuring many of the city’s best known landmarks and sites like the Freedom Trail, USS Constitution, State House, Harbor Islands, Waterworks Museum, Lowell Mills, Old North Church, Kings Chapel, Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, the Esplanade, African Meeting House and more. It also features interviews with many of Boston’s most fascinating activists, artists, scholars and politicians that provide perspective on Boston’s influence on culture and politics.

Discussion boards, videos, a scavenger hunt, games and other social media tools will help students around the world fully engage in the learning process. Students are encouraged to contribute stories, artifacts and other elements to the learning environment. The History of Boston is a course for anyone who wants to learn more about one of the most beautiful and influential cities on earth.

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Upon completion of this course, you will:

  • Know the historical roots of Boston and their contemporary cultural significance.
  • Understand the roles that individuals play in the creation of history.
  • Understand the interdisciplinary nature of studying history, including the relationship between history and literature, politics, art, and economics.
  • Understand the factors that contribute to historical longevity.
  • Know how ethnic, social, and class-based differences shaped Boston’s development.
  • Know the historical and contemporary geographic and physical contours of Boston.

Course Instructors

Robert J. Allison, Ph.D

Robert J. Allison, Ph.D

Professor of History and Chair Suffolk History Department, Professor at Harvard Extension School

Robert J. Allison has taught American history at Suffolk University in Boston since 1992, when he earned his doctorate in the History of American Civilization at Harvard. He currently chairs Suffolk’s History Department, and also teaches history at the Harvard Extension School.

His books include The American Revolution: A Concise History (2011); The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World, 1776–1815 (2000); A Short History of Boston (2004) and A Short History of Cape Cod (2010); Stephen Decatur, American Naval Hero (2005); The Boston Massacre (2006); and The Boston Tea Party (2007).

He also produced “Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies” for The Teaching Company’s Great Courses (2009). His edited books span American history from the colonial period to the 20th century, and he currently hosts a free, online course on the U.S. Constitution (http://www.udemy.com/us-constitution/).

Professor Allison received the Petra Shattuck Distinguished Teaching Award from the Harvard Extension School in 1997, the Suffolk University Student Government Association's Distinguished Faculty Award in 2006, and the Suffolk University Outstanding Faculty Award in 2007 and 2010.

Professor Allison was a consultant to the Commonwealth Museum at the State Archives in Boston, and he is on the board of trustees of the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He is president of the South Boston Historical Society, vice president of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and a fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society.