Book - Princeton University Press

The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton

| 2021

Featured in the Fall 2021 Newsletter »

Overview

In The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Porwancher debunks a string of myths about the origins of this founding father to arrive at a startling conclusion: Hamilton, in all likelihood, was born and raised Jewish. For more than two centuries, his youth in the Caribbean has remained shrouded in mystery. Hamilton himself wanted it that way, and most biographers have simply assumed he had a Christian boyhood. With a detective's persistence and a historian's rigor, Porwancher upends that assumption and revolutionizes our understanding of an American icon.

This radical reassessment of Hamilton's religious upbringing gives us a fresh perspective on both his adult years and the country he helped forge. Although he didn't identify as a Jew in America, Hamilton cultivated a relationship with the Jewish community that made him unique among the founders. As a lawyer, he advocated for Jewish citizens in court. As a financial visionary, he invigorated sectors of the economy that gave Jews their greatest opportunities. As an alumnus of Columbia, he made his alma mater more welcoming to Jewish people. And his efforts are all the more striking given the pernicious antisemitism of the era. In a new nation torn between democratic promises and discriminatory practices, Hamilton fought for a republic in which Jew and Gentile would stand as equals.

By setting Hamilton in the context of his Jewish world for the first time, this fascinating book challenges us to rethink the life and legend of America's most enigmatic founder.

Front Cover Image of The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton

Praise for The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton

"Andrew Porwancher has written a provocative and intriguing new take on Alexander Hamilton. Deeply researched, and uncovering new information, it should be read by all who are interested in one of the most important figures in America's founding generation."—Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University

"Long before Hamilton became a beloved American musical, rumors circulated that its title character had been born a Jew. This remarkable book lends color to those rumors and uncovers Alexander Hamilton’s numerous other associations with Jews, as well as his battles against religious prejudice. A major contribution to our understanding both of Hamilton and of Jews in the early American republic."—Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History

"This is truly a pathbreaking work. Andrew Porwancher deals with the question of Hamilton's Jewish background with the nuance and care that it deserves. His book is impressive not only for what it teaches us about Hamilton's upbringing; it also broadens our understanding of Hamilton's principles and practices as a founder."—Stephen F. Knott, U.S. Naval War College

About This Book

Front Cover Crop of the Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton

The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Porwancher, Andrew. The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2021.

The Author