Joanne B. Freeman

Joanne B. Freeman (born April 27, 1962) is a U.S. historian and tenured Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University. Having researched Alexander Hamilton both independently and collaboratively with mentors and peers for more than forty years, she is regarded as "a leading expert" on his life and legacy.[1][2][3] Freeman has published two books as well as articles and op-eds in newspapers including The New York Times,[4][5] magazines such as The Atlantic and Slate and numerous academic journals referencing the U.S. founding father. In addition to her many public lectures on Hamilton, outside of her regular student curriculum at Yale, her talks on the topics of political partisanship and violence in the pre-Civil War Congress have appeared on CSPAN.[6] In 2005 she was rated one of the "Top Young Historians" in the U.S.[7][8]

Joanne B. Freeman
Joanne Freeman, historian.jpg
Joanne B. Freeman
Joanne B. Freeman

(1962-04-27) April 27, 1962 (age 60)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materPomona College
University of Virginia
Occupationprofessor, author, historian
EmployerYale University
Known forstudies on the American Revolution and the early U.S.
AwardsBest Book Award, 2001 Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR)
William Clyde DeVane Teaching Award, Yale University, 2017

Early life and educationEdit

Freeman was born in Queens, New York City, in 1962. She graduated from Pomona College in 1984 and received both her MA (1993) and PhD (1998) in American History from University of Virginia; her doctoral advisor was Peter S. Onuf, a major scholar on U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Prior to graduate school, Freeman was a public historian, delivering lectures at a range of US history-centric institutions including the Smithsonian, South Street Seaport, Museum of American Finance and the Library of Congress over a span of seven years. Her area of expertise is political culture of early America, particularly the revolutionary and early national eras.


In addition to editing Alexander Hamilton: Writings for the Library of America in 2001, Freeman is the author of Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (2001). Both books have been quoted in biographies about Hamilton or the Founding Fathers. Her first book, Affairs of Honor, received praise for being "analytically incisive" from Stanford University historian and Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Rakove and "enormously original" from Rutgers University history Professor and Thomas Jefferson scholar Jan Lewis.[9] In this debut work, Freeman lays out the challenges that early patriots faced as they struggled to create a new and independent country. Freeman posits that office-holders and office-seekers were particularly immersed in conflict: "Regional distrust, personal animosity, accusation, suspicion, implication, and denouncement—this was the tenor of national politics from the outset.” [10]

A prominent focus of her research has been the practice of dueling, including those rules governing one of the most famous encounters in history between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. In an interview with fellow historians Kenneth T. Jackson and Valerie Paley, Hamilton author Ron Chernow called attention to Freeman's work and her discovery that Hamilton had been involved in ten previous character challenges prior to the eleventh and fatal event: "Joanne Freeman's book explains that a duel is simply the final stage of 'an affair of honor'."[11] In his book, the Founding Fathers and the Politics of Character, Andrew Trees further cites Freeman's observations that Hamilton saw honor "as the foundation of Hamilton's vision for himself, the polity, and the nation." [12]

Freeman's series of lectures on the American Revolution is one of 42 courses offered online by Open Yale Courses.

Freeman has been interviewed for several documentaries about Hamilton. These have aired on American Experience and The Discovery Channel. In 2002, she appeared in Founding Brothers with fellow historians Ron Chernow, Richard Brookhiser, David McCullough, and Carol Berkin on The History Channel; the two-part program and overview of five founders – George Washington, Hamilton, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson – was based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same title by Joseph Ellis.[13][14][15][16]

Freeman's published findings about the history of dueling helped inspire the song "Ten Duel Commandments" in the Tony Award winning musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda.[17] Though she agrees with fellow historians that the show has historical errors, she is a fan of the Broadway hit and its creator and believes it is engendering interest in the Founding Fathers, ‘‘People should think and evaluate and not necessarily instantly accept stories whether it's on the stage or wherever they get it from,’’ she said. ‘‘The play is getting people to ask a lot of questions about Hamilton and history. (Miranda) would be very happy.’’[18] Freeman has also appeared in the PBS documentary Hamilton's America that traced the making of the musical.[19][20]

Newer projectsEdit

Freeman worked for two years as a historical consultant for the National Park Service in the reconstruction of the Hamilton Grange National Memorial.[21][22] In 2017, she edited and published The Essential Hamilton: Letters & Other Writings, with the Library of America. Her latest book, The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War, documents and analyzes episodes of physical violence between antagonistic members of U.S. Congress in the decades before the Civil War; it was published September 11, 2018, by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She has drawn parallels between American parties polarized in the mid-19th century with 21st-century bombast. "Then as now, raising hackles before the eyes of the press was a play for power; politicians who displayed their fighting-man spunk were strutting their suitability as leaders."[23][24]

Starting February 3, 2017, Freeman joined the crew of the popular weekly American History radio show BackStory as a co-host; the 8-year-old show based out of University of Virginia is also a popular podcast. The premise of the 1 hour program is to examine contemporary happenings through the lens of the past.[25]


  • (2001) Best Book Award, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic
  • (2017) William Clyde DeVane Teaching Award "The DeVane Award honors faculty who have distinguished themselves as teachers of undergraduates in Yale College and as scholars in their fields, and has been conferred annually since 1966 by the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (PBK)."[26]


  • American Council of Learned Societies
  • Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers
  • Dirkson Congressional Research Center
  • J. Franklin Jameson Fellowship Award – Sponsored by the American Historical Association and the Library of Congress (2000–2001) [27]



  • Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001; pbk, 2002. ISBN 9780300097559 OCLC 44391893
  • Alexander Hamilton: Writings. New York: Library of America, 2001. ISBN 9781931082044
  • The Essential Hamilton – Letters and Other Writings. New York: Library of America, May 2017 (pbk). ISBN 9781598535365
  • The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2018. ISBN 9781250234582, OCLC 1076509946
  • Joanne B Freeman; Johann N Neem, Jeffersonians in power : the rhetoric of opposition meets the realities of governing, Charlottesville ; London University of Virginia Press 2019. ISBN 9780813943053

Articles and essaysEdit

Additional publicationsEdit


  1. ^ Jennifer Schuessler. "Up From the Family Basement, a Little-Seen Hamilton Trove". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Watch: Joanne Freeman answers your questions about Alexander Hamilton". Library of America. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  3. ^ Bridget Rne. "Series reveals the nation's 'Founding Brothers' in conflict". Associated Press. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  4. ^ Joanne B. Freeman. "Luisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louis Thomas". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  5. ^ Joanne B. Freeman. "The Long History of Political Idiocy". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Joanne B. Freeman May 4, 2004 – Present". CSPAN.
  7. ^ "Department of History:Joanne Freeman". Yale University. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  8. ^ Joanne B. Freeman. "How Hamilton Uses History: What Lin-Manuel Miranda Included in His Portrait of a Heroic, Complicated Founding Father—and What He Left Out". Slate. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  9. ^ "Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic and Alexander Hamilton, Writings". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  10. ^ Chris Bray. "Tip and Gip Sip and Quip-The politics of never". The Baffler. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  11. ^ Kenneth T. Jackson and Virginia Paley. "History Makers: A Conversation, An Interview with Ron Chernow" (PDF). New-York Historical Society. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  12. ^ Andrew S. Trees,The Founding Fathers and the Politics of Character, Princeton University Press, 2004, p.169.
  13. ^ Richard Huff. "They Forged A Nation". Daily News. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  14. ^ Joanne B. Freeman, Dueling as Politics: Reinterpreting the Burr-Hamilton Duel, The William and Mary Quarterly, 3d series, 53 (April 1996): 289–318.
  15. ^ Christopher Caldwell (January 13, 2002). "Liar, Scoundrel, Puppy". New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  16. ^ "Hamilton-Burr Duel Bicentennial". Weehawken Historical Commission.
  17. ^ "Alumna's Research Guided Fiery Lyrics and Duels of Broadway Hit 'Hamilton". University of Virginia. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  18. ^ Josh Cornfield. "Did Martha Washington really name a cat after Alexander Hamilton?". Boston Globe. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  19. ^ Katherine Brooks. "Inside The History Documentary Every 'Hamilton' Fan Will Want To See". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  20. ^ Megan McDonough. "At screening of 'Hamilton' documentary, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says he always knew the Founding Father was a pop star". Washington Post. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  21. ^ "Author, Historian Joanne Freeman to speak April 30". SunyCortland. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  22. ^ "Welcome to Hamilton's 'Sweet Project'Grand Re-Opening – September 17, 2011" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  23. ^ Joanne B. Freeman. "The Long History of Political Idiocy". The New York Times.
  24. ^ Joanne B. Freeman. "Field of Blood:Congressional Violence in Antebellum America". Yale University. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  25. ^ "Meet the Guys". Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  26. ^ "Two faculty members and a Yale alumna win awards from Phi Beta Kappa". Yale. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  27. ^ "Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic and Alexander Hamilton, Writings". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 11, 2017.


External linksEdit