The 70th Annual Tony Awards is this Sunday, and if we’re really honest with ourselves, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical is the star attraction this year. Miranda’s cultural powerhouse of a show is nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tonys. With tickets near impossible to come by, how can historians and theater-lovers feel closer to this bastard orphan’s story? We thought we’d compile five books to give a fuller sense of the life and times of our ten dollar founding father.
Be warned, these may not be your obvious suggestions. Sure, we could recommend The Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton by Michael Federici, or our Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States series, but below you will find a list of projects that will broaden your sense of this game of chess.
1.Invisible Sovereign: Imagining Public Opinion from the Revolution to Reconstruction by Mark G. Schmeller
Popular opinion was a whole different beast in Hamilton’s time. Mark Schmeller takes us into the rooms where it happened for an inside look at managing public thought in early America. You can learn more here.
2.Groundless: Rumors, Legends, and Hoaxes on the Early American Frontier by Gregory Evans Dowd
Communication in the eighteenth century was one giant game of telephone, and messages were bound to get bungled—unintentional or otherwise. Gregory Dowd’s latest focuses on communications both public and private during this time. While equality is a running theme in Lin-Manuel’s Hamilton, the effect of mixed messages on Native Americans is largely ignored, and Dowd provides laser focus into that issue. Read on here.
3.The Fate of the Revolution: Virginians Debate the Constitution by Lorri Glover
Those Virginians are birds of a feather, and Lorri Glover takes a deep look into the issues behind ratifying the U.S. Constitution through the lens of power players like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. For more, click here.
4.Empire and Nation: The American Revolution in the Atlantic World edited by Eliga H. Gould and Peter S. Onuf
When history has its eyes on you, you’ve got to think of the big picture. This finely-curated collection of essays paints a broader picture of the global implications of the American Revolution. Visit here for more.
5.Contested Conventions: The Struggle to Establish the Constitution and Save the Union, 1787—1789 by Melvin Yazawa
Just short of mind-numbing rap battles, this project brings to life the hard-fought battle over the creation of the Constitution. There’s a LOT of politics at play in this slice of history, and Yazawa unpacks each plotline with the precision of a Daveed Diggs line. The book comes out in August, but you can get an idea of the project here.
What are your favorite books on early America? Let us know in the comments below. Now, off to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack. Here’s to one helluva Hamiltonys on Sunday night.
Kathryn Marguy is a publicist and social media coordinator at Johns Hopkins University Press. She shares her love for books (and Hamilton, of course) on Twitter @pubkat.