As a social historian, James W. Sanders takes a new look at a critical period in the development of Boston schools. Focusing on the burgeoning Irish Catholic population and framing the discussion around Catholic hierarchy, Sanders considers the interplay of social forces in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that led to Irish Catholics’ emerging with political control of the city and its public schools. The latter reduced the need for parochial schools; by at least the 1920s, the public and parochial schools had taken giant steps toward one another in theory and practice under the leadership of the Catholics who presided over both systems. The public schools taught the same morality as the Catholic ones, and, in the generous use of Catholic saints and heroes as moral exemplars, they came dangerously close to breaching the wall of separation between religion and the public school. As a result, despite the large Irish Catholic population, Boston’s parochial school system looked very different from parochial schools in other American cities, and did not match them in size or influence. The book begins in 1822 when Boston officially became a city and ends with the Irish Catholic takeover of the Boston public school system before the Second World War.