Gaming the Framing: To Teach the Convention, the Constitution, and the Founding – John Patrick Coby

A Convention delegate—who shall go unnamed—while researching the backgrounds of his colleagues in Philadelphia, has uncovered information of a compromising nature; and being something of a scoundrel himself, he resolves to use that information in ways that will advance his own interests. One by one he approaches his targets, intimating that, for considerations, he might be willing to keep quiet about their secrets. When he comes upon Alexander Hamilton and…

Reacting to the Past for Early Americanists – Elizabeth George

Class was over. It had been over for five minutes. I could see the next class growing restless in the hall. I interrupted a heated exchange among my students with an “ok, we’ll decide if he lives or dies next time!” The students immediately broke into smaller groups, everyone talking quickly, even as the next class came in and forced them away from the tables.  This is a typical class…

Building Student Engagement with Reacting to the Past – Christopher E. Hendricks

A widow who runs a tavern in Manhattan stands before a gathering of representatives, some loyal to the Crown, others interested in severing their ties with Great Britain and establishing a new government. A group of women, enslaved people, craftsmen, and others listen as she petitions the august body to recognize property and voting rights for women in New York, when suddenly a mob forms and storms the assembly. The…

Controlled Chaos: Roleplaying Revolution in Southeast Texas – Brendan Gillis

“We were acting more like the Paris Commune than the American Revolution,” a particularly perceptive student noted after a chaotic class session in Fall 2021.  Our upper-division history course on the revolutionary era was nearing the midpoint of a four-week unit given over to Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-1776, a roleplaying game in the Reacting to the Past series.1 By this point, the students to whom…

Harnessing Competitiveness for Good in RTTP Games – Brett Palfreyman 

As a historian at a small college, I have the privilege of branching out beyond my area of specialization to teach courses in different regions, time periods, and themes. I have overseen Reacting to the Past (RTTP) games that recreate debates over the merits of democracy in Ancient Athens or discussions about the validity of the scientific method outlined in Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. But, as an Early Americanist,…

Challenging Myths through Gameplay: Reacting to the Past and Popular Ideology in the Classroom – Joshua J. Jeffers

A few years ago, I was teaching the second half of the U.S. history survey course and using the Reacting to the Past game Greenwich Village, 1913.1 My class included a student who had completed the first half of the survey with me where I had used Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York, and this student had excelled at it, ultimately planning and leading a successful slave revolt, a…

Teaching with Games Roundtable Q&A — Michael LaCombe with the Authors

What can games in general (Reacting To The Past – RTTP – and others) do that other teaching activities and strategies cannot? Many of your comments talk about student engagement, or collaboration, but to what teaching or learning end?  How do you channel or focus engagement into written and oral communication, content knowledge or other course goals? The pedagogical payoffs of a roleplaying game, as with other forms of experiential…

Distributing Representation: Are the Founders’ Ideas Still Useful in the 21st Century? – Robert J. Gough

The issues of the size of the House of Representatives and the apportionment of its members were not settled in 1792 and remain contentious in 2022. In the nearly century-and-a-half between 1790 and 1930, the House grew from 105 to 435 members, and Congress used several different methods to apportion them among the states. Politics always played a role in these decisions, but Congress also became entangled in what mathematicians…

Interview with Rachel Walker, 2021 Murrin Prize Winner

Rachel Walker’s article, “Facing Race:  Popular Science and Black Intellectual Thought in Antebellum America,” EAS 19, No. 3 (Summer 2021), 601-40, won the 2021 Murrin Prize. The Murrin Prize is named for John Murrin (1936-2020), Professor Emeritus of History at Princeton University, who was a scholar of early American history and an active member of the McNeil Center community. The prize is awarded annually for the best article in EAS.…