My attention was returned to this critical question by a recent twitter exchange between Annette Gordon-Reed and Sam Haselby (and others) along side a recent piece by Haselby in Aeon. The scuffle between Gordon-Reed and Haselby focuses on the time-is-a-flat-circle question of Thomas Jefferson’s religious beliefs. Was he a secularist? Some variant of Christian? A Unitarian? An atheist? Haselby’s Aeon piece takes a different tack, arguing that the American founding represented a “rogue wave of rationality in a centuries-long sea of Protestant evangelising, sectarianism and God-talk.” Haselby marks out the Founders—particularly Jefferson and James Madison—as “visionary secularists” who created a secular republic, which was eventually co-opt by decidedly non-secular political and cultural forces. He singles out late eighteenth-century Virginia as the primary canvas upon which the great artists of American secularism worked. Continue reading
Earlier this week historian Rebecca Onion published an essay in Aeon arguing that historians should take more seriously the concept of counterfactuals. Though often derided by professional historians, Onion argues quite effectively that such an approach to the past can force us to reconsider our assumptions about what actually did happen and ask new and perhaps even more creative questions about the past.
This post was written by Christopher Minty and Nora Slonimsky, who, many moons ago, woke up early on a Sunday morning to purchase tickets to the opening-night preview performance of Hamilton: An American Musical, which took place on July 13, 2015, at the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York City. This post was originally posted on July 19, 2015. It was removed as a courtesy to the show’s creative and promotional teams. It has been reposted with significant alterations and additions.
Hip-hop is on Broadway, not just in a popular YouTube video. On Monday, July 13, 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit off-Broadway musical, HAMILTON, made its debut on the big stage. On August 6, 2015, rebranded as Hamilton: An American Musical, a much-applauded, diverse cast returned to perform in the official opening of a much larger, hopefully long-running production at the Richard Rodgers Theater.
Welcome to another The Week in Early American History! Take a break from the end-of-semester crunch to check out the unprecedented unification of the four surviving Magna Carta manuscripts or to a look at the tree root that ate Roger Williams. On to the links! Continue reading
Here’s our seasonal roundup of new and forthcoming titles. Share your finds below! Continue reading
We are pleased to feature a guest post from Benjamin Carp (@bencarp), the Daniel M. Lyons Professor of American History at Brooklyn College, CUNY. Carp is the author of both Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America and Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution.
“I want the historians to respect this.” –Lin-Manuel Miranda, according to Ron Chernow
In the lobby of the Public Theater, two statues flanked the doorway—the likenesses of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr stretched out their arms and aimed their dueling pistols at one another, and it was hard not to feel as if I was standing in the middle. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, wrote the musical Hamilton and stars in the title role. He portrays the first Secretary of the Treasury as a “bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman” and an immigrant striver made good; throughout his career, Hamilton is arrogant about his talents but perpetually insecure about his place. As told by Miranda, Hamilton is both self-made and self-unmade, wry and seductive and yet constantly raging against anyone who might hold him back. Continue reading