American Musicals in Context
From the American Revolution to the 21st Century
by Thomas A. Greenfield
March 2021, 319pp, 7x10
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6540-4
$97, £72, 84€, A132
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6541-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Hamilton: An American Musical introduced Broadway to the complexity and genius of hip hop.

American Musicals in Context: From the American Revolution to the 21st Century gives students a fresh look at history-based musicals, helping readers to understand the American story through one of the country's most celebrated art forms: the musical.

With the hit musical Hamilton (2015) captivating audiences and reshaping the way early U.S. history is taught and written about, this book offers insight into an array of musicals that explore U.S. history. The work provides a synopsis, overview of critical and audience reception, and historical context and analysis for each of 20 musicals selected for the unique and illuminating way they present the American story on the stage.

Specifically, this volume explores musicals that have centered their themes, characters, and plots on some aspect of America’s complex and ever-changing history. Each in its own way helps us rediscover pivotal national crises, key political decisions, defining moral choices, unspeakable and unresolved injustices, important and untold stories, defeats suffered, victories won in the face of monumental adversity, and the sacrifices borne publicly and privately in the process of creating the American narrative, one story at a time. Students will come away from the volume armed with the critical thinking skills necessary to discern fact from fiction in U.S. history.


  • Capitalizes on historic interest in the musical Hamilton
  • Represents major periods in American history through musicals
  • Unlike other books on the history of musical theatre, explores American history through musical form
Thomas A. Greenfield is professor of English emeritus and former dean of the State University of New York College at Geneseo. He is editor and principal author of Broadway: An Encyclopedia of Theater and American Culture (Greenwood, 2009). His other books include Radio: A Reference Guide (Greenwood, 1989) and Work and the Work Ethic in American Drama, 1920–1970. His writing has also appeared in The Arthur Miller Journal, Comparative Drama, South Atlantic Bulletin, The Crisis, Liberal Education, Music in American Life (Greenwood, 2013), The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Popular Culture (Greenwood, 2007), and other publications.


"Greenfield introduces musical theater buffs and students of history to potentially lesser-known productions that form an accessible time line of U.S. history, exploring war, racial and gender inequality, capitalism, and generational discord."—Library Journal, August 1, 2021

"The popular entertainment genre gets a magnificent boost in this readable reference. . . Recommended for young adults and teens, undergraduate researchers in the performing arts, and theatergoers interested in historical production."—Booklist, June 1, 2021
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