Many songs offer historical information, such as the ones in musicals like Hamilton, Evita, and even Les Miserables, which not only depict history through music, but also teach their audiences a thing or two about the past. Musicals about certain historical events could seriously help their audiences learn their details and timelines. Plus, they would totally make history more accessible and fun.
The relocation of thousands of Native Americans during the early 19th century was the United States government's response to what they termed the "Indian problem." During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the Trail of Tears exemplified how extreme such tactics would become.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 gave President Andrew Jackson the authority to grant lands west of the Mississippi River to Native American tribes. Many tribes went willingly to what was called Indian Territory, but the Cherokee nation, who inhabited parts of Arkansas and Georgia, resisted. States limited Native American sovereignty, trying to drive tribes from their borders. In 1831 and 1832, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against these tactics, but President Jackson continued his efforts to drive Native Americans west. The US Army forced the Choctaw Nation to move to Indian Territory, making them walk "without any food, supplies or other help from the government." Thousands died along the way, and the route was termed the "Trail of Tears."
In 1835, members of the Cherokee Nation and the US government met at New Echota to negotiate a treaty. The Cherokee received $5 million dollars and were given two years to move west. By 1838, thousands of Cherokees remained on their lands. The government used the treaty to justify their forcible relocation. Thousands of US troops were sent into Georgia and North Carolina to round up Native Americans, who were marched to Indian Territory. Native Americans were held in camps until the 1,200 mile journey began in October 1838. Over 25% of Cherokees died of exhaustion, disease, and illness.
Songs telling the tragic stories of Native Americans along the Trail of Tears would necessarily reflect their hardships. A song titled "We Walk Alone" would be appropriate. Tunes that demonize power-hungry President Andrew Jackson may include "I'd Like to see the Supreme Court Make Me" or "Do They Know Who I Am?"
The world can't get enough of the British royal family, but keeping them all straight is difficult. A musical would help! The show could be structured by acts that more or less recreate the giant family tree that has grown to support the House of Windsor today.
Act one would introduce some key Anglo Saxons before diving into the blending cultures that defined eleventh and twelfth century Anglo-Norman kings. The reigns of King John and King Richard would feature heavily, and songs could be titled "From Lackland to Lionheart." Stories of Edward I, Edward II, and Edward III through the fourteenth century would feature tunes about "Those Pesky Scots" and "Eeek! The Black Death!"
Act two would tell the stories of Kings Henry IV, V, and VI as well as Edward IV, V, and Richard III as they set the scene for the Wars of the Roses. It was an extremely complex period of British history. Songs like "Red Rose, White Rose" and "Where Are The Princes?" give the basics before presenting the first of the Tudor kings, Henry VII. "Bosworth Field to Baby Trouble" introduces the audience to Henry VIII and his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.
Act three begins with the death of Elizabeth I and the reign of James VI of Scotland. The Stuarts faced some trying times during the reign of Charles I. He went to war with Parliament and lost his head over the whole affair, leading to the establishment of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell. "The King Went Too Far" could tell the story of why the Cromwells and anti-royalists took England in a non-monarchical direction. The reestablishment of the house of Stuart in 1660 brought back the King. By 1688, it led to the Glorious Revolution.
The final act would recount the Kings of Hanover. It would cover the four Georges to Queen Victoria then leap into the 20th century with Windsor monarchs like George V and VI. Elizabeth II would close out the show. Songs like "George III, Meet America" and "Ain't No Escaping the British Empire" would serve as overviews of Britain dominance and colonialism. "What's Next?" could make a nice closing number, raising the question of royal succession as well as examining the place of the monarchy in modern politics.
The start of the Great Depression kicked off a decade of struggle for millions of people worldwide and in the United States led to economic experimentation with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal.
The hardships of the Great Depression—the unemployment, bank failures, poverty, Hoovervilles, which started under President Herbert Hoover's watch—are generally well known. During the first years of the Depression, the government experimented with planned scarcity and a hands-off approach to economic recovery. When FDR became president in 1932, he implemented a program of social support, relief, reform, and protection. During his first 100 days, FDR signed the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Act to improve infrastructure and begin building projects along the Tennessee River. He established the National Industrial Recovery Act to protect worker's rights. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided jobs to young men around the country.
The emerging alphabet soup of work program acronyms continued during the second round of New Deal laws the Roosevelt administration pushed starting in 1935. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided work for millions of Americans. The National Labor Relations Act regulated unions, and the Social Security Act set up pension protection and unemployment assistance. There were numerous New Deal programs to fund farmers, education, and to provide loans. Not all of the programs worked, and some replaced others as the Depression continued through the 1930s. By 1939, the New Deal decreased unemployment in the United States dramatically, and the economy as a whole greatly expanded. With the outbreak of World War II, the depression ended, but the New Deal set a precedent of increased government involvement in economic and social issues.
The build up to the stock market crash in 1929 has plenty of sad music to go along with it. Numbers like "Going Home to Nowhere" would provide an appropriate tone for the Depression. The hopefulness of the New Deal, however, would bring a lighthearted tone in songs like "Roosevelt's Chattin' Tonight" (a reference to his Fireside Chats) or "WPA Means We're A-okay!"
The fall of the Soviet Union is another aspect of history that is difficult to wrap one's head around. The musical could focus on the period between 1989 and 1991, starting with how the Soviet Union slowly lost control of its Communist satellite states in Eastern Europe. "Poland Leads the Way!" would provide information on Lech Walsea and the Solidarity movement. "East Meets West" would recount how Germany was on its way to reunification.
The role of Mikhail Gorbachev with his policies of "Perestroika" and "Glastnost," both of which could be explanatory songs, also offer insights into how the Soviet Union tried to adapt to changes within the Communist world, albeit unsuccessfully. When Gorbachev was the target of a coup in 1991, it signaled an end to the Soviet Union. Gorbachev stayed in power but resigned in December 1991. Within a month, the former Soviet Union ceased to exist. For closure of sorts, ending the musical with "Goodbye Mikhail, Hello Boris" could provide information about the leadership of Boris Yeltsin and what it would mean for the post-Soviet Union world.