Modern Americans consider tolerance a central, if not the central, political ideal of the Republic. When setting down the Bill of Rights that would limit areas of governmental intrusion, the Framers started off with the guarantee of tolerance in the freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion. Tolerance, many people believe, defines America more than any other idea. The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI), as part of its 2012-13 programming devoted to the theme of “What is civilizational struggle?” will offer a public course “Heretics, Witches, and the Roots of Tolerance” to be taught by Resident Fellow Dr. Christopher Hill, an award-winning scholar and teacher.

Dr. Hill’s course will trace the development of tolerance in the Western tradition from the development of orthodoxy and the suppression of dissent in the ancient world, to the growth of heresy in the Middle Ages, to the Witch Hunts of Early Modern Europe, to the religious wars that opened the door to the modern understanding of toleration. The course combines history, religion, economics and law.

The course will meet Monday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Westlake Media Center at the Alexander Hamilton Inn, 21 W. Park Row, Clinton, New York. It will run from September 10 to December 10, 2012. Refreshments will be provided during each class. The course is free and open to the public, but space is limited. If you’d like a seat at the table, please send an email to, or call 315-381-3335.

Christopher Hill earned his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in 2008 and has advanced degrees in both medieval and modern European history. He has taught at the University of Texas and Hamilton College, where he received the Sidney Wertimer Award for excellence in teaching in 2010. While a graduate student he composed a novel satirizing political correctness on a fictional college campus. In 2000, the book, Virtual Morality, won the Editors’ Book Award from Pushcart Press.