Wait for it…Some Thoughts on Critiquing Hamilton

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Well…it didn’t take long for folks to go after Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit, Hamilton – and point out its failures as history. I’m not surprised – many jumped at Spielberg’s Lincoln before the credits finished rolling. The problem, as some see it, is that Hamilton, despite its diverse cast, is a “great man” history that obscures the role of those non-white, non-elite people, especially slaves, in the development of America.

The problem with this analysis, of course, is that Hamilton is not an academic history book, so it seems to me odd to review it as such. In fact, it’s not really history at all – but rather the story of ambition, envy, and of tragically flawed character.

Yes, Miranda’s musical (adapted from Ron Chernow’s biography) does gloss over or even leave out a few things concerning slavery in 18th and early-19th century America – though he does offer several moments praising abolitionists and snarkily jabbing at slaveholders.

The last time I checked, Miranda was not a professional historian. So why should we critique him as such? Perhaps we should ask what Hamilton does do – instead of what it doesn’t.  As far as I can tell, it has done a great deal to get people thinking about a particularly contentious and ambitious group of individuals set against a historical backdrop…and if Hamilton fans have been inspired to look deeper into the history of the Revolution and the Early Republic to find out what was really up – well then…what more can I say?

With compliments,


Letters, Diaries, and Journals

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 10.01.12 AMGreetings all – I have mentioned this on Twitter once or twice, but I thought I would put the call out here as well. This fall, I will be teaching an advanced studies course for 11th and 12th graders on the Civil War and Reconstruction, which will last for the full academic year. This course will rely heavily on published first-hand accounts. So…I am seeking suggestions for any published (and easily available) collections of letters, journals, or diaries. I have some good ones lined up for the Civil War units – Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Kate Stone, Sam Watkins, Robert Gould Shaw, and others – but I am having a much harder time finding similar accounts of the Reconstruction period. I will most likely put together a reader (I have a great collection of first-hand documents) if no good collections are readily available – so all suggestions are welcome 🙂

Thanks in advance!


American Civil War Web-Course

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 8.04.38 PMGreetings all! I have been posting updates on Twitter of late chronicling the progress of my next web-course: The American Civil War. I am very pleased to announce that the launch date is May 14, 2016. The course includes nearly forty video lectures and other projects covering military, social, political, and economic aspects of the conflict.

I am most excited to offer this course to my founding web-students for a 50% discount off the already reasonable price. You won’t find this deal anywhere but through this site – and the offer goes away on launch day. So you had better get on the stick. Here’s what you need to do:

ONE – be a current student or enroll now in either my Gettysburg or Reconstruction Era web-course for the regular discounted price available only from Keith Harris History.

TWO – sign up to be part of the Keith Harris History CREW so I can be sure to get you the info you need.

Get that all squared away and on launch day you will receive your discount code via email. And that’s it. Easy right?

With compliments,