Joanna Grisinger is an Associate Professor of Instruction at the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University and a CULJP board member.
I know I’m not the only one thinking about how to use (the now-Tony-award-winning) “Hamilton” in my classroom next year, so I wanted to share some resources I’ve been gathering about the musical.
First, how to listen? The show is sung-through, so the cast album allows one to listen to (if not see) the complete show. The cast album is streaming on Spotify and Amazon Prime, and is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon. The 2016 book Hamilton: The Revolution (the “Hamiltome”) contains lyrics and essays about the development of the musical; Lin-Manuel Miranda has provided additional lyrical annotations at genius.com. A lengthy 2015 New Yorker profile of Miranda provides some background about the creation of the musical, and Miranda’s 2009 performance of the first song at the White House offers a hint of the success to come.
Source materials for the musical include Joanne Freeman's Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (Yale University Press, 2002), Joanne Freeman, ed., Alexander Hamilton: Writings (Library of America, 2001), and Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004).
The Gilder Lehrman Institute has put together a wealth of essays, primary sources, and teaching materials on Alexander Hamilton. In addition, a huge number of primary sources on the American Revolution and the Constitution are available through Yale's Project Avalon, including the full text of the Federalist Papers. Another great source is the Founders' Constitution ("the Oxford English Dictionary of American constitutional history"), which is fully available online.
Historian Lyra D. Monteiro (Rutgers-Newark) has a critical essay for The Public Historian on “Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton" (Feb. 2016). Prof. Monteiro's essay elicited thoughtful responses from Jason Allen (New Jersey Council for the Humanities), David Dean (Carleton University), Ellen Noonan (American Social History Project, CUNY), and
Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard Law School). Monteiro's own response is here.
Discussion of the politics and historical accuracy can also be found in the Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History, the New York Times and Slate, while an article in Vox argues that “Hamilton is fanfic, and its historical critics are totally missing the point.”
For coverage in podcast form: Backstory with the American History Guys has posted a podcast entitled "Hamilton: A History." The National Constitution Center has posted a podcast entitled "Hamilton, the Man and the Musical," with guests Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard Law School) and Michael Klarman (Harvard Law School).
Finally, Richard Primus (University of Michigan Law School) asks, “Will Lin-Manuel Miranda Transform the Supreme Court?” As he suggests, “Within the foreseeable future, a jurisprudence of original meanings may fuel the most progressive constitutional decision making since the days of Chief Justice Earl Warren. Just you wait.”