Renee C. Romano and Claire Bond Potter, eds.
Historians on Hamilton
How a Blockbuster Musical is Restaging America’s Past
Rutgers University Press 2018
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in HistoryNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books Network November 7, 2018 Kristen Turner
Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical is Restaging America’s Past (Rutgers University Press, 2018), edited by Renee C. Romano and Claire Bond Potter, is a collection of essays about Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, Hamilton. The show has taken Broadway and much of the United States by storm and is currently running on the West End in London as well. The popular interest in Alexander Hamilton prompted by the show’s success has generated new museum exhibits, numerous hot takes in the media, and even a successful effort to preserve Hamilton’s likeness on the ten dollar bill. The essays in this collection take on some of the questions and issues raised by the musical and its popularity. Some of the authors comment on the ways that Miranda’s interpretation of American history diverges from many historians’ understandings, while others take him to task for his portrayals of women and slavery. Miranda’s decision to cast non-white actors in most of the roles also comes under scrutiny in several essays. Aimed at a wide audience, including teachers, scholars, and fans the essays provide a diverse, sometimes contradictory, set of views on Hamilton, as well as suggestions for teaching the musical. It is not often that we see a new collective memory of the past form in real time, but that is what is happening because of the success Hamilton. This collection is one of the first attempts at analyzing the musical as a piece of art, an interpretation of America’s founders, and a phenomenal commercial success in the online age.
Renee C. Romano is the Robert S. Danforth Professor of History at Oberlin College in Ohio. She is the author or coeditor of many books and articles on racial politics of the post-WWII United States, African American history, civil rights, and historical memory. Her most recent book is Racial Reckoning: Prosecuting America’s Civil Rights Murders from Harvard University Press.
Claire Bond Potter is a professor history at the New School in New York and the executive editor of Public Seminar. In addition to her monograph, War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture, and scholarly articles, she is a prolific public historian whose writing has been published by many news outlets including The Guardian, the Washington Post. She is also the Director of the Digital Humanities Initiatives at the New School.
Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.