The serious study of history has always ranked at the top of the list of the central concerns of The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI). “To be ignorant of what happened before you were born,” Cicero observed, “is to remain always a child.” Although history holds no easy lessons, its careful study, according to the proper standards of the discipline, opens to the mind a vast field of instruction, indeed, one that can serve, when honestly done, as a dutiful handmaid of philosophy. If prudence ranks high on the scale of political and moral values, then history remains one of its indispensable sources of human inspiration and wisdom as well as a vital mediator in dynamic interaction with reason and experience between the metaphysical and the material worlds.
Thomas Jefferson, among many other founders, looked to the study of history to maintain a free society. Citizens must become “guardians” of their own liberty, he insisted, the watchers of the watchmen. In that effort, the study of history “will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.”
Yet, fair-minded citizens, including no few prominent historians, in surveying the landscape in which this vital intergenerational obligation of historical engagement should be fulfilled—especially on the campuses of allegedly elite colleges and universities—find wreckage and deceit: curricular incoherence or non-existence; abandonment of American history requirements even for majors, the absence of courses in military history, economic history, intellectual history, and diplomatic history, the weaponization of history by professors, inside and outside of history departments, who have committed themselves not to understanding the past, but rather to plundering it selectively to advance a political agenda. In this regard, the New York Times much-ballyhooed 1619 Project stands out not as serious history, but as an artful propagandistic abridgement of American history designed to further a political project of social transformation.
The Alexander Hamilton Initiative for the Study of History represents an effort, however modest in its beginnings, to repair the wreckage. We cannot be successful without your support.
Among the initiatives planned:
- AHI is pleased to announce that its Twelfth Annual Carl B. Menges Colloquium will take place at the Rochester Institute of Technology, November 8-9. AHI will co-sponsor with the RIT’s Center for Statesmanship, Law, and Liberty and the Bill of Rights Institute “‘Last Best, Hope’: Citizenship, Statesmanship & American History.” Featured speakers will be Wilfred McClay, the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma and Mary Grabar, AHI resident fellow.
Dr. Grabar’s Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America provides a devastating critique of the “scholarship” in a textbook that has sold more than 2.6 million copies and is widely used as required reading in introductory American history courses in high schools and colleges. Dr. McClay’s Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story stands as not only a far superior alternative to Zinn’s text—a lucid narrative of American history from Christopher Columbus to Donald Trump—but as a learned primer in the meaning of citizenship itself. Both McClay and Grabar reclaim the lost role of virtuous citizens in statesmen and stateswomen in perpetuating the American experiment as, in Lincoln’s words, the “last best, hope of earth.”
- The establishment of an annual Columbus Day lecture, which will explore the history of the encounters of peoples in the Atlantic world during the age of Western European expansion. AHI Charter Fellow Douglas Ambrose, the Sidney Wertimer, Jr. associate professor of history at Hamilton College, will inaugurate the series on Monday, October 14, at AHI headquarters at 6:30 p.m. He will speak on “Telling American Stories: Columbus Day in American History.”
- The establishment of an annual lecture in economic history to be named after Stanley Engerman, an AHI academic advisor who ranks as one of the most influential economic historians of his generation.
- Reading clusters devoted to the cover-to-cover reading of great books in history.
- Promotion of undergraduate excellence in the study of history at conferences and through organizations that promote the serious study of history.
AHI relies on the cooperative efforts of active volunteers for management and all but the most essential aspects of professional services. In fulfilling our mission, you may be confident of the efficient use of your gift and of our loyalty to purpose.
As a maturing organization we are wholly reliant upon the financial donations of friends, alumni, and those who support our initiatives in defense of liberal arts—traditionally understood—and of a civilizational heritage, which has made this country exceptional in history, “the world’s best hope” in the words of our third president. On principle, we accept no donations or grants from federal, state, or local government. To ensure that AHI becomes an enduring edifice of educational excellence, we will look in the future toward establishing an endowment.
You can help us immediately in furthering our mission in two ways:
First, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution, which can be done through PAYPAL on our website or by check, mailed to AHI, 21 West Park Row, Clinton, New York, 13323.
Second, AHI has a special offer. In 2019, AHI fellows published the following three books:
Douglas Ambrose, Your Obedient Servant: The Letters of Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr (Fenimore Museum)
Mary Grabar, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America (Regnery)
Juliana Pilon, The Utopian Conceit and the War on Freedom (Academica Press)
To support AHI’s initiatives in the study of history, we are offering signed copies of all three books for the price of $100, including postage. Purchases can be made through PAYPAL or by mailing a check to AHI, 21 West Park Row, Clinton, New York, 13323.