"Half-Confidence Is Always Bad" | Newberry

"Half-Confidence Is Always Bad"

The Newberry’s exhibit Hamilton: The History Behind the Musical is open through March 9. In this episode of “Shelf Life,” we talk with the exhibit’s curator, Will Hansen, about how he placed the exhibit in dialogue with the musical, the scourge that is “founder’s chic,” and his favorite piece of Hamiltonian wisdom: “half-confidence is always bad.”

"Half-Confidence Is Always Bad" by Shelf Life, from the Newberry Library

Show Notes

2:32 – What are the merits of Hamilton the Musical as a vehicle for telling history? How can the Newberry respond to and complement a popular work of art about the past?

5:12 – The musical itself licenses conversations about how history is written.

7:12 – Is Lin-Manuel Miranda guilty of the “founder’s chic” mode of historical representation? Is there something inherently wrong with portraying the founding fathers as “relatable, cool guys”?

14:20 – The Newberry collection items that are on display in Hamilton: The History Behind the Musical.

17:11 – How does the Newberry’s exhibit add to or complicate the story told in the musical?

21:21 – What a letter written by Alexander Hamilton in 1799 reveals about his temperament and approach to politics.

Related Resources and Suggested Reading

Hamilton: The History Behind the Musical

“Hamilton” - Highlights of the Newberry Library Holdings

“Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton by Lyra Monteiro