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As a work of historical fiction, Hamilton is more than just something that entertains us. It’s helped people, young and old, brush up on their knowledge of American civics, and in some cases, learn something new altogether. That doesn’t mean Hamilton is perfectly historically accurate, though -- and according to the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the fact that it doesn’t always get the facts right isn’t that big of a deal.
The Hamilton musical has been lauded for the masterful way it blends modern music with classic Broadway storytelling. At around three hours long, it takes us through the life (and death) of one of America’s most influential founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. That means we get to see the American Revolution and its subsequent aftermath. It ends with his wife, Eliza Hamilton, explaining what happened in the years after he was killed by Aaron Burr. She died 50 years after Alexander, in 1854. So yeah, it covers a lot of ground.
That means that Lin-Manuel Miranda had to do a lot of research to make sure he got the gist of the story, and not all of it could make it into the final story. In the years since Hamilton hit the stage, the writer and star has been known to share historical anecdotes that didn’t make the cut with his fans on Twitter.
The huge span of time covered in the show also meant he had to take some pretty heavy creative licenses in condensing the story. Sometimes that means he didn’t always get it exactly right. While speaking on Disney+'s Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes On You for the Hamilton film, he explained that he feels like thats not necessarily a bad thing, though - because it’s inspiring people to look more deeply into the history and learn it for themselves:
I get tweets every day from young people who say, ‘But what about this?’ Or, ‘It’s John Laurens’s birthday, why haven’t you said anything yet?’ And so, all the things I could not fit in the two and a half hours I have of your time, it’s exciting to see people discover that.
There’s been a big surge in interest in Hamilton since the film hit Disney+ on July 3. So it’s safe to say Lin-Manuel Miranda will probably be fielding a lot more questions as a whole new wave of people fall in love with the film and fall down its historical rabbit hole.
The larger audience for the play also means that some criticism has arisen regarding how Hamilton handles some issues like slavery. Lin-Manuel Miranda has, for his part, welcomed the criticism that the musical does gloss over some of the worst parts of our nation’s founding. That too, though, has helped start important dialogues about how we talk about and view history.
Did you learn anything new when you saw Hamilton? Did you catch any historical inaccuracies? Let us know in the comments!