Historical Themes

The Hudson River is an American landmark of great historical, cultural, and artistic significance, and has aptly been called “America’s River.” Our workshop will focus on the Hudson in the nineteenth century, when the river was simultaneously a commercial thoroughfare, a tourist destination and the scene of dramatic technological, industrial, and environmental changes, all the while celebrated for its iconic natural beauty.

A number of major literary and artistic figures who lived and worked near or on the Hudson River witnessed and often produced works in response to the great economic, social and industrial changes that marked the river during the nineteenth century. These include writers Washington Irving and John Burroughs, and artists Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Sanford Gifford, and others who comprise what came to be called the “Hudson River School.” In focusing on both the history of the Hudson region in the nineteenth century and the various representations of the river produced during this time, this program treats the Hudson as a site through which a central humanistic question can be examined: how does our material and imaginative relationship to the natural world change as we transform that world through development and use?

As NEH Summer Scholars, participants will explore works of art, literature, architecture and non-fiction writing, and consider particular historical, commercial and technological developments in light of this question. In doing so, we will pay close attention to the diversity of ways in which nineteenth-century Americans navigated the river, both literally and figuratively. Using the interdisciplinary approach of American Studies, and with a desire to explore Environmental Studies through the humanities, this workshop brings together experts who are as devoted to teaching and experiential learning as they are to scholarship.

Some additional links

Statistical atlas

Population shift top 100 cities

Growth of industry in NYS

NYS 1821 convention