The first defining moment in the history of a place is when it gets its name. When it was named, why it was named, and what it was named for all say something about the place itself and the thoughts of the early settlers. For someone in the seventeenth century, the adoption of “Old” English names for places in “New” England must have seemed somehow surreal. For example, at least five modern Massachusetts towns are named indirectly for rivers a continent away. These associations are very distant today, but settlers closer to Lincolnshire than Massachusetts Bay took these connections seriously. The naming of Boston was no exception.
(This is a reprint from a project that I worked on in 2009, but never published.)