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"Make 'em Laugh": Why History Cannot Be Reduced to Song and Dance

"Make 'em Laugh": Why History Cannot Be Reduced to Song and Dance "Make 'em Laugh" Why History Cannot Be Reduced to Song and Dance NANCY ISENBERG Whether professional scholars agree or not, the musical Hamilton has been widely praised for its historical value. Jody Rosen (who is not a historian) asserted without qualification in The New York Times Magazine that the musical was a "rigorously factual period drama." The Huffington Post credited the historical Hamilton for envisioning the United States as a "unified nation, a strong federal government and an urban, industrial society--all things Democrats embrace today," as opposed to Jefferson's "rural utopianism." Caught up in the dramatic personality of the play's protagonist, these writers downplay the fact that Hamilton's major (and not so hip) constituency--the "one percent"--were wealthy speculators. Theater lovers on the Internet ardently defend the production as a genuine article of history. When he interviewed Lin-Manuel Miranda on CBS, Charlie Rose insisted that the show was not only history, but something that should replace all traditional historical interpretation. Miranda demurred, but that didn't stop the seemingly earnest Rose.1 Nancy Isenberg is the T. Harry Williams Professor of American History at Louisiana State University, and author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (New http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the Early Republic University of Pennsylvania Press

"Make 'em Laugh": Why History Cannot Be Reduced to Song and Dance

Journal of the Early Republic , Volume 37 (2) – May 24, 2017

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.
ISSN
1553-0620
Publisher site
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Abstract

"Make 'em Laugh" Why History Cannot Be Reduced to Song and Dance NANCY ISENBERG Whether professional scholars agree or not, the musical Hamilton has been widely praised for its historical value. Jody Rosen (who is not a historian) asserted without qualification in The New York Times Magazine that the musical was a "rigorously factual period drama." The Huffington Post credited the historical Hamilton for envisioning the United States as a "unified nation, a strong federal government and an urban, industrial society--all things Democrats embrace today," as opposed to Jefferson's "rural utopianism." Caught up in the dramatic personality of the play's protagonist, these writers downplay the fact that Hamilton's major (and not so hip) constituency--the "one percent"--were wealthy speculators. Theater lovers on the Internet ardently defend the production as a genuine article of history. When he interviewed Lin-Manuel Miranda on CBS, Charlie Rose insisted that the show was not only history, but something that should replace all traditional historical interpretation. Miranda demurred, but that didn't stop the seemingly earnest Rose.1 Nancy Isenberg is the T. Harry Williams Professor of American History at Louisiana State University, and author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (New

Journal

Journal of the Early RepublicUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: May 24, 2017

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