Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of An American Founding Father may look very different from most of the other offerings in the history section of your bookstore or library. But its essence is no different. This book is the culmination of the same kind of research process behind any credible work of nonfiction.
And like most modern credible works of nonfiction, Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of An American Founding Father earnestly emphasizes the use of primary sources.
For those not in the know, primary sources are documents left behind by those who were living participants in or eyewitnesses of historical events. Primary sources include letters, diary entries, court documents, written military orders, receipts, contemporary journalism, transcripts of speeches, drawings, notes, and so on.
In fact, we venture here that the inclusion of primary sources work better in the comics or graphic novel medium than in more scholarly articles or books! That is one of the great strengths of adapting history with both words and images.
We comics writers can find creative ways to actively integrate primary sources into the visual narrative itself. This a great deal more elegant and engaging than just another quotation on a page or isolated within white space, or a photographic image in a margin or bound together in subsections of the book.
Not only are primary sources included here, they’re primal to the storytelling. About 75% of the “dialogue” of Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of An American Founding Father is directly quoted from a primary source: say, a letter from or to Hamilton, Jefferson, Washington, or any one of the dozens of historical figures both epic and obscure who are to be found between the covers of this book.
Most scholarly works of history will cite their sources, both primary and secondary, in a “notes” section found in the end matter of the book.
However, in a graphic novel, there are several reasons why including this is a challenge. Adding more than a few numbered footnotes to the text within dialogue balloons or caption boxes would tremendously frustrate the visual aesthetic.
Also to be considered are the elevated costs of producing a graphic novel. You can only end up with an appealing, full-color graphic novel after an expensive printing process using superior paper stock—something that is required to capture the artistry of the penciler, inker, color artist, and letter artist.
Even a notes section of a half dozen pages could so ratchet up a publisher’s unit costs that it could spell the difference between producing a book and not producing it at all.
Luckily, however, we have the digital world—where there are no barriers to adding more images and more text. So it is here that you will find the notes section that belongs in Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of An American Founding Father, arranged by chapter.
Instead of using a numbering system, here we cue the citation with a snippet of corresponding artwork from the book.
Whether you’re here to confirm that the book was responsibly researched and written or you have simply been inspired to learn more about the life and times of Hamilton and the American Revolution, we hope you will find this system rewarding and easy to use.