Hamilton: Does Lin-Manuel Miranda Give us True History or just His-Story?

 

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What’s a Historian to do with Kim Kardashian?

In this lesson, we’ll take a look at what it means to be a historical thinker and discover how to look at the past the way historians do. Today, there are so many historical digital documents: tweets, youtube videos, last night’s embarrassing selfie that somehow found its way onto Instagram… There’s a lot of information being generated, but who is going to sort through all of it and decide what is most meaningful. Who knows, maybe in the future there will be historians that focus entirely on the legacy of Instagram selfies of Kim Kardashian.

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Where Did History Start?

History is an interpretation of what happened in the past. Society has been keeping track of history since time unknown. In Western culture, Greece is often pointed to as one of the first countries to strongly value keeping and telling history. Around 400 B.C., Thucydides produced the work History of the Peloponnesian War. This was significant because it details the fall of Athens in a way that doesn’t look towards gods or mythology. Instead, Thucydides just related the events that happened and what the human motivations were. Some claim he was one of the first historians.

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What Counts As History?

History has been related in many ways: oral histories, hieroglyphics, cave art, sculptural representations of important figures, books, and photographs. It wasn’t until the 19th and 20th centuries that history as a social science really developed. Historians placed much importance on combining history with geography, economics, psychology and anthropology. Combining these disciplines has helped historians be more accurate. But, even though historians may try to be accurate, history is always an interpretation, never a complete truth.

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So, Does Hamilton Count As History?

In this lesson, we’ll bring a critical eye to the big blockbuster history lesson everyone is captivated by, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Does Miranda’s play shed light on an overlooked historical figure and give America a different way to appreciate its founding history? Or does it just provide entertainment and overlook all of the uncool things these old white men did and represented? By sidestepping the forefather’s involvement in slavery and Native American genocide, can Hamilton be viewed as a historically accurate document of our past? Is that important when a work of art can generate so much interest in the past? Dig in deep to this history and make your own decision about how we should be viewing Hamilton.

 

 

Media

Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.

History - What is history?


Alexander Hamilton: First Secretary of the Treasury


Hamilton: Lin-Manuel Miranda On The Play's Historical Inaccuracies
Lesson Plan

Learning Objective: History and Social Studies students will learn about Alexander Hamilton and other Founding Fathers by examining several historical sources. They will focus on Historical Thinking, a method of looking at how the past is represented with a critical eye.

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Lesson tags: Eighth, Hamilton, History, Music, Ninth, Pop Culture, Social Studies, Tenth

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