Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is currently writing a history of the United States.
Lepore received a B.A. in English from Tufts University in 1987, an M.A. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1990, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1995. She joined the Harvard History Department in 2003 and was Chair of the History and Literature Program in 2005-10, 2012, and 2014. In 2012, she was named Harvard College Professor, in recognition of distinction in undergraduate teaching. In 2014, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the American Philosophical Society. Since 2015, she has been an Affiliated Faculty member at the Harvard Law School. Her research has been funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Foundation, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Charles Warren Center, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. She is the recipient of many honors and awards including honorary degrees from Bowdoin College, Colgate University, Tufts University, and Warwick University.
Much of Lepore's scholarship explores absences and asymmetries of evidence in the historical record, with a particular emphasis on the histories and technologies of evidence and of privacy. A prize-winning professor, she teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, the humanities, and American political history. (On teaching the writing of history, see How to Write a Paper for This Class.)
Lepore has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005, writing about American history, law, literature, and politics. A recent series of essays examines the Election of 2016, considering, for instance, the role of polls, facts, parties. and the conventions. Other recent essays consider grief, child welfare, disruption, torture, guns, and the archiving of the Internet. A complete list is here. Scholarly bibliographies to her New Yorker essays can be found here. Her essays and reviews have also appeared in the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, the Journal of American History, Foreign Affairs, the Yale Law Journal, American Scholar, and the American Quarterly. They have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Latvian, Swedish, French, Chinese, and Japanese, and have also been widely anthologized, including in collections of the best legal writing and the best technology writing. Three of her books derive from her New Yorker essays: The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (Knopf, 2012), a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; The Story of America: Essays on Origins (Princeton, 2012), shortlisted for the PEN Literary Award for the Art of the Essay; and The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle for American History (Princeton, 2010), a Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.
Her most recent book is Joe Gould's Teeth, published by Knopf in 2016. The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Knopf, 2014) was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2015 American History Book Prize. Lepore's earlier work includes a trilogy of books that together constitute a political history of early America: The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity (Knopf, 1998), winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, and the Berkshire Prize; New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (Knopf, 2005), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best nonfiction book on race and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (Knopf, 2013), Time magazine's Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, winner of the Mark Lynton History Prize and a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction.
In 2017, she will be delivering the F. E. L. Priestley Memorial Lectures in the History of Ideas at the University of Toronto and the George Bancroft Memorial Lecture at the United States Naval Academy. From 2011-2013, Lepore was a Visiting Scholar of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Among her other scholarly and public lectures, she has delivered the Richard Leopold Lecture on Public Affairs at Northwestern University (2016), the Patten Lectures at Indiana University (2016), the Theodore H. White Lecture on the Press and Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (2015), the John L. Hatfield Lecture at Lafayette College (2015), the Lewis Walpole Library Lecture at Yale (2013), the Harry F. Camp Memorial Lecture at Stanford (2013), the University of Kansas Humanities Lecture (2013), the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lectures at the New York Public Library (2012), the Kephardt Lecture at Villanova (2011), the Stafford-Little Lecture at Princeton (2010), and the Walker Horizon Lecture at DePauw (2009).
Lepore is a past president of the Society of American Historians and a former Commissioner of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. She has been a consultant and contributor to a number of documentary and public history projects, has an avid interest in the history of radio, television and film, and has served as documentary film juror for the NEH and at the Sundance Film Festival. Her three-part story, "The Search for Big Brown," was broadcast on The New Yorker Radio Hour in 2015. Among her interviews, she has appeared on Fresh Air and on the Colbert Report.
Lepore lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and their three sons.