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,

Keith

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