Historiography

Forthcoming
These Truths: A History of the United States
Lepore, Jill. Forthcoming. These Truths: A History of the United States. New York: Norton.Abstract

In the most ambitious, one-volume American history in decades, award-winning historian Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation.

 

The American experiment rests on three ideas—“these truths,” Jefferson called them—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, writes Jill Lepore in a groundbreaking investigation into the American past that places truth itself at the center of the nation’s history. In riveting prose, These Truths tells the story of America, beginning in 1492, to ask whether the course of events has proven the nation’s founding truths, or belied them. “A nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, will fight forever over the meaning of its history,” Lepore writes, finding meaning in those very contradictions as she weaves American history into a majestic tapestry of faith and hope, of peril and prosperity, of technological progress and moral anguish. Part spellbinding chronicle, part old-fashioned civics book, These Truths, filled with arresting sketches of Americans from John Winthrop and Frederick Douglass to Pauli Murray and Phyllis Schlafly, offers an authoritative new history of a great, and greatly troubled, nation.

Praise for These Truths

“In this time of disillusionment with American politics, Jill Lepore’s beautifully written book should be essential reading for everyone who cares about the country’s future. Her history of the United States reminds us of the dilemmas that have plagued the country and the institutional strengths that have allowed us to survive as a republic for over two centuries. At a minimum, her book should be required reading for every federal officeholder.”

—Robert Dallek, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Who can write a comprehensive yet lucid history of the sprawling United States in a single volume? Only Jill Lepore has the verve, wit, range, and insights to pull off this daring and provocative book. Interweaving many lively biographies, These Truths illuminates the origins of the passions and causes, which still inspire and divide Americans in an age that needs all the truth we can find.”

—Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions

 “Lepore brings a scholar's comprehensive rigor and a poet's lyrical precision to this singular single-volume history of the United States. Understanding America's past, as she demonstrates, has always been a central American project. She knows that the "story of America" is as plural and mutable as the nation itself, and the result is a work of prismatic richness, one that rewards not just reading but rereading. This will be an instant classic.”

—Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of The Lies that Bind

“Anyone interested in the future of the Republic must read this book. One of our greatest historians succeeds, where so many have failed, to make sense of the whole canvas of our history. Without ignoring the horrors of conquest, slavery or recurring prejudices, she manages nonetheless to capture the epic quality of the American past. With passion, compassion, wit, and remarkable insight, Lepore brings it all to life, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. This is a manifesto for our necessarily shared future.”

—Lynn Hunt, author of History: Why it Matters

“In this inspiring and enlightening book, Jill Lepore accomplishes the grand task of telling us what we need to know about our past in order to be good citizens today. Avoiding political and ideological agendas, she confronts the contradictions that come from being born a land of both liberty and slavery, but she uses such conflicts to find meaning—and hope—in the tale of America’s progress.”

—Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History, Tulane, author of The Innovators

2018
Lepore, Jill. 2018. “The Shorebird: Rachel Carson and the rising of the seas.” The New Yorker, March 26, 2018. Article
2017
Lepore, Jill. 2017. “Dead Weight: The burden of the corpse.” The New Yorker, October 16, 2017. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2017. “The History Test: How Should the Courts Use History?.” The New Yorker, March 27, 2017. Article
Cohen, B.R. 2017. “Jill Lepore on the Challenge of Explaining Things.” Public Books April 24, 2017. Article
2016
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “American Exposure.” newyorker.com, July 12, 2016. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “The Sovereignty of Women.” The New Yorker. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “After the Fact: In the history of truth, a new chapter begins.” The New Yorker. Article
Gross, Terri. 2016. “Polling Is Ubiquitous: But Is it Bad for Democracy?.” Fresh Air. Audio
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “The Party Crashers: Is the new populism about the message or the medium?.” The New Yorker, February 22, 2016. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2016. “The Rebirth of a Nation.” newyorker.com, January 31, 2016. Article
Joe Gould's Teeth
Lepore, Jill. 2016. Joe Gould's Teeth. New York: Knopf. Audio EditionAbstract

From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the long-lost, longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.”

Joe Gould, a madman, believed he was the most brilliant historian of the twentieth century. So did some of his friends, a group of modernist writers and artists that included E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, John Dos Passos, and Ezra Pound. Gould began his life’s work before the First World War, announcing that he intended to write down nearly anything anyone ever said to him. “I am trying to preserve as much detail as I can about the normal life of every day people,” he explained, because “as a rule, history does not deal with such small fry.” By 1942, when The New Yorker published a profile of Gould written by the reporter Joseph Mitchell, Gould’s manuscript had grown to more than nine million words. But when Gould died in 1957, in a mental hospital, the manuscript was nowhere to be found. Then, in 1964, in “Joe Gould’s Secret,” a second profile, Mitchell claimed that “The Oral History of Our Time” had been, all along, merely a figment of Gould’s imagination. Lepore, unpersuaded, set about to find out.

Joe Gould’s Teeth is a Poe-like tale of detection, madness, and invention. Digging through archives all over the country, Lepore unearthed evidence that “The Oral History of Our Time” did in fact once exist. Relying on letters, scraps, and Gould’s own diaries and notebooks—including volumes of his lost manuscript—Lepore argues that Joe Gould’s real secret had to do with sex and the color line, with modernists’ relationship to the Harlem Renaissance, and, above all, with Gould’s terrifying obsession with the African American sculptor Augusta Savage. In ways that even Gould himself could not have imagined, what Gould wrote down really is a history of our time: unsettling, and ferocious.

“A madman’s grossly engrossing tale.” —The New York Times

“Revelatory..” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
“We owe Lepore a debt of gratitude for re-introducing us to one of the strangest strangers to have ever walked among us.” —Chicago Tribune

“Lepore specializes in excavating old flashpoints—forgotten or badly misremembered collisions between politics and cultural debates in America’s past. She lays out for our modern sensibility how some event or social problem was fought over by interest groups, reformers, opportunists and ‘thought leaders’ of the day. The result can look both familiar and disturbing, like our era’s arguments flipped in a funhouse mirror….Her discipline is worthy of a first-class detective.” —The New York Review of Books

“At a time when few are disposed to see history as a branch of literature, Lepore occupies a prominent place in American letters.” —The Daily Beast

“Again and again, she distills the figures she writes about into clean, simple, muscular prose, making unequivocal assertions that carry a faint electric charge…[and] attain a transgressive, downright badass swagger.” —Slate

“Lepore’s superb narrative brings that history vividly into the present, weaving individual lives into the sweeping changes of the century.” —The Wall Street Journal

2015
Joe Gould's Teeth: The long-lost story of the longest book ever written
Lepore, Jill. 2015. “Joe Gould's Teeth: The long-lost story of the longest book ever written.” The New Yorker. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2015. “Richer and Poorer: Accounting for inequality.” The New Yorker, March 16, 2015. Article
Lepore, Jill. 2015. “"Mourning Lincoln" and "Lincoln's Body".” The New York Times. Article
2014
Lepore, Jill. 2014. “The Great Paper Caper: Someone swiped Justice Frankfurter's papers. What else has gone missing?.” The New Yorker, December 2, 2014. Article Bibliography
Lepore, Jill. 2014. “The Disruption Machine: What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.” The New Yorker, June 23, 2014. Article Bibliography
Lepore, Jill. 2014. “Away from My Desk: The office from beginning to end.” The New Yorker, May 12, 2014. Article
2013
Lepore, Jill. 2013. “Long Division: Measuring the polarization of American politics.” The New Yorker, December 2, 2013 . Article Bibliography
The Prodigal Daughter: Writing, history, mourning
Lepore, Jill. 2013. “The Prodigal Daughter: Writing, history, mourning.” The New Yorker, July 8, 2013. Article

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