America has gone Hamilton crazy. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical has spawned sold-out performances, a triple platinum cast album, and a score so catchy that it is being used to teach U.S. history in classrooms across the country. But just how historically accurate is Hamilton? And how is the show itself making history?
Historians on Hamilton brings together a collection of top scholars to explain the Hamilton phenomenon and explore what it might mean for our understanding of America’s history. The contributors examine what the musical got right, what it got wrong, and why it matters. Does Hamilton’s hip-hop take on the Founding Fathers misrepresent our nation’s past, or does it offer a bold positive vision for our nation’s future? Can a musical so unabashedly contemporary and deliberately anachronistic still communicate historical truths about American culture and politics? And is Hamilton as revolutionary as its creators and many commentators claim? Whether you are a fan or a skeptic, you will come away from this collection with a new appreciation for the meaning and importance of the Hamilton phenomenon.
Renee C. Romano Oberlin College
Robert S. Danforth Professor of History, Comparative American Studies and Africana Studies
"Historians on Hamilton is an erudite and accessible scholarly consideration of the Broadway phenomenon that created an Alexander Hamilton palatable for our times. An indispensable work for all interested in the founding and contemporary racial politics."
--Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family
"Deeply documented, culturally astute, interpretively diverse, consistently illuminating—this is a model of intellectual engagement. Providing insight into Hamilton’s significance, the essays cogently reveal how contemporary culture shapes our past.”
--Joshua Brown, American Social History Project, City University of New York Graduate Center
"Treating Hamilton as a historical phenomenon in its own right, contributors to this volume reflect on the lives that inspired it and its meaning for our conflict-ridden present."
--Kathleen M. Brown, David Boies Professor of History, The University of Pennsylvania
"Think of this volume as a how-to manual for scholars to use the brilliance of Hamilton to teach about the incredibly complex power dynamics of early America."
--Gautham Rao, assistant professor of history at American University and author of National Duties
"Hamilton, the musical, has turned thousands of people onto the history of the American founding. For those who want more, Historians on Hamilton digs deep into the myths and realities behind the show."
--Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief of the Slate Group and author of The Bush Tragedy
"Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is enthralling as musical theater. As history…not so much. Fortunately, two great professional historians, Renee C. Romano and Claire Bond Potter, are here to set the record straight, gathering expert essays to tell you the inconvenient truths about Alexander Hamilton that the hit play leaves out. More than that, though, Historians on Hamilton offers informed and insightful meditations on the themes of history, memory, legacy, interpretation and art that lie at the heart of the Broadway smash. No Hamilton fan should do without it."
--David Greenberg, professor of history at Rutgers University, author of Republic of Spin
"…Historians on Hamilton emerges as a template for thoughtful, deliberate dialogue. In the deft hands of Potter and Romano, the volume manages to be critical and incisive while still, from my impression, maintain a similar spirit to the musical itself. Both provide examples of how to talk across and not at disciplinary, professional, and creative categories. A cultural force as powerful as Hamilton gives historians in many hats a unique opportunity to demonstrate what our work can do. In this moment where factual information, expertise, and the arts are facing heavy derision, the opening question of who tells our history, on what terms, and to what ends is that much more meaningful. History is not, and should not, the sole interest of historians, but artists, musicians, performers, politicians, activists, and engaged, interested participants in the American and global communities. Historians on Hamilton is an intuitive reminder that historians can, and must, participate on that wider stage."
"...The wide-ranging essays in Historians on Hamilton will broaden readers’ grasp of the varied contexts that have shaped the production, reception, and political and cultural stakes of the musical’s story, staging, and celebration….The editors should be commended for assembling a volume that contains such diverse, and occasionally opposed, viewpoints within a capacious yet coherent framework. Cumulatively, the essays in Historians on Hamilton provide a useful and impressive range of perspectives from which to appreciate the historical significance of the Broadway sensation, to evaluate the historical accuracy of the story Hamilton tells, and to prod us to consider the contemporary stakes of the historical narratives we consume, celebrate, and propagate."
“For Hamilton fans, history buffs, political thinkers and Broadway acolytes, this collection provides dozens of fascinating perspectives,
“For Hamilton fans, history buffs, political thinkers and Broadway acolytes, this collection provides dozens of fascinating perspectives, correctives, and sidelong directives. It probably won’t change your mind about the show, but it will keep you thinking and talking about it, and the world that surrounds it, for a long time to come. If you love Hamilton the musical or have any curiosity about the man himself and where he fits into the American panorama, this is the book for you."
"A thought-provoking and carefully crafted collection of scholarship that has much to offer readers interested in music, theater, or American history."
--Library Journal starred review