.As a history buff AND a long-time Broadway musical fan, I fell in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton (like much of America) when the cast recording was released. Not only is it incredibly entertaining, it's also a great introduction to the history of that period. We'll use the musical as a jumping off point to discuss the American Revolution, the Constitution, and Hamilton's role as a Founding Father.
What will students learn?
I hope that students will not only learn some basic history about the founding of our country, but also that many of the key philosophical and political questions of that time (strong federal government vs. states' rights, wealthy investors vs. the "ordinary citizen", intervention vs. isolation) still inform the political debates of today.
We will also discuss how the creative choices made by Lin-Manuel Miranda in his adaptation of Hamilton's history (casting, musical style, etc.) comment on issues like racism and immigration, both now and at the time of America's founding.
What is your favorite thing about teaching this class?
I now have an excuse to listen to Hamilton over and over again (which, okay, to be honest, I was already doing). Plus, I have a stack of great history books and biographies to work my way through as preparation for the class. (Any excuse to spend hours reading and feel virtuous about it is wonderful, as I usually just feel guilty about undone household chores.)
Who would you recommend this class for?
Anyone who enjoys musicals, or hip-hop, or really catchy pop tunes sung by a guy wearing a giant white King George III wig. And/or anyone who loves history—which really should be everyone, since history is full of entertaining and fascinating "truth is stranger than fiction" stories. Sadly, too many of us associate history class with a string of dates, when really history is full of people acting like people, being brilliant and cowardly and heroic and villainous and hysterically funny and petty and romantic and obnoxious and everything else.
One special note: Hamilton does contain explicit lyrics and adult sexual situations (the sexual content is primarily in the Act 2 song, "Say No To This,” which we will not be discussing in class). While I personally am comfortable with listening to the album with my preteen and teenage children, I understand that every family is different. I strongly suggest that if parents have any concerns, they should listen to the recording —which everyone should do anyway, for the sheer enjoyment factor. I'm also happy to discuss any specific concerns or answer more detailed questions about the class.
Why did you decide to teach this class?
Amy made me. Also, as family can attest, I enjoy nothing more at the moment than endlessly discussing both Hamilton and Hamilton. Please sign up and join me—for the sake of my family, if nothing else.