Hamilton now a history course

Alexander HamiltonAfter more than 200 years, Alexander Hamilton is finally a hot ticket, thanks to the Broadway mega-hit “Hamilton,” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. History Professor Phil Lucas took advantage of the buzz to present a topics course on Hamilton during first block.

Lucas assigned his students the “Hamilton” libretto and the biography on which it was adapted, “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow. His purpose for the course, he says, is to help students see the big picture of history and understand why people who influenced history did what they did. Lucas cites Alexander Hamilton—an illegitimate child born to poverty—as one of the four most important figures in the early days of the United States, along with Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. 

“I knew pretty much nothing about him before the class,” says Jordan Proby ’19. “All I knew was that there was a very popular play about him. I was attracted to this course because I wanted to learn more about the play, and I am always interested in analyzing a play or film and seeing how much it gets right about its subject. I learned about how much Hamilton affected the country and how he really is one of the most important founding fathers.”

Lucas says the students were very engaged with the course material, including a long debate about whether a local theatre group in a predominantly white part of the country could stage the play without including people of color.  “In the musical many of the actors are people of color playing characters that were historically white. Much of the music is hip-hop and rap. Together, they represent the growing diversity of this country,” Lucas says. “If a course I teach engages students with the big themes, I think it’s been a successful class.”