Biography

 

 

 

On sabbatical during academic year 2019-2020.

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. Her latest book is This America: The Case for the Nation (2019). Her 2018 book, These Truths: A History of the United States, is an international bestseller and was named one of Time magazine's top ten non-fiction books of the decade.  (A recent essay considers responses to the book.) Her next book, IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future, will be published in 2020.

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.

Lepore is the recipient of many honors, awards, and honorary degrees, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award; the National Magazine Award; and, twice, for the Pulitzer Prize. She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the American Philosophical Society. 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, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Much of Lepore's scholarship explores absences and asymmetries in the historical record, with a particular emphasis on the histories and technologies of evidence. 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.) In 2017, she launched the Democracy Project: Arguing with American History, a one-semester undergraduate course on the history of the United States, undertaken through weekly debates in which students use primary sources to argue over competing historical interpretations of turning points in American history. She also teaches at Harvard Law School. She is currently developing a multi-season podcast called The Last Archive.

In 2018, as part of her research on the Simulmatics Corporation and represented by the Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, Lepore filed a petition in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, requesting the unsealing of grand jury records pertaining to the Pentaon Papers investigation in Boston in 1971.

Lepore has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005, writing about American history, law, literature, and politics. A complete list of Lepore's New Yorker essays 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; have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Latvian, Swedish, French, Chinese, and Japanese; and have 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.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Knopf, 2014) was a national 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.

Lepore has lectured widely. Among her recent scholarly and public addresses, she has delivered the F. E. L. Priestley Memorial Lectures in the History of Ideas at the University of Toronto (2018), the George Bancroft Memorial Lecture at the United States Naval Academy (2017), the Richard Leopold Lecture on Public Affairs at Northwestern University (2016), the Patten Lectures at Indiana University (2016), and the Theodore H. White Lecture on the Press and Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (2015).

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. Her three-part story, "The Search for Big Brown," was broadcast on The New Yorker Radio Hour in 2015. S 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.