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A historian with many interests—from Jane Franklin to Wonder Woman—Jill Lepore here explores the very origins of our country. At a time when it feels like the foundation is crumbling, it’s important to look back and understand how the United States was formed. Lepore has a deftness with language that is always a delight to read. The pages of These Truths breezed by pleasurably.
“Nothing short of a masterpiece.” —NPR Books
A New York Times Bestseller and a Washington Post Notable Book of the Year
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.
Widely hailed for its “sweeping, sobering account of the American past” (New York Times Book Review), Jill Lepore’s one-volume history of America places truth itself—a devotion to facts, proof, and evidence—at the center of the nation’s history. The American experiment rests on three ideas—“these truths,” Jefferson called them—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. But has the nation, and democracy itself, delivered on that promise?
These Truths tells this uniquely American story, beginning in 1492, asking whether the course of events over more than five centuries has proven the nation’s truths, or belied them. To answer that question, Lepore wrestles with the state of American politics, the legacy of slavery, the persistence of inequality, and the nature of technological change. “A nation born in contradiction… will fight, forever, over the meaning of its history,” Lepore writes, but engaging in that struggle by studying the past is part of the work of citizenship. With These Truths, Lepore has produced a book that will shape our view of American history for decades to come.
About the Author
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University, where she teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, the humanities, and American political history. Her one-semester undergraduate course on the history of the United States features weekly debates in which students use primary sources to argue over competing historical interpretations of turning points in American history. She is the author of The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity (winner of the Bancroft Prize), New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), The Secret History of Wonder Woman (winner of the American History Book Prize), and many other titles. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, host of the podcast The Last Archive, and she was named the winner of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought in 2021.
Lepore has written the most honest accounting of our country’s history that I’ve ever read. — Bill Gates
It isn’t until you start reading it that you realize how much we need a book like this one at this particular moment.… Brilliant. — Andrew Sullivan - New York Times Book Review
[These Truths] captures the fullness of the past, where hope rises out of despair, renewal out of destruction, and forward momentum out of setbacks.
— Jack E. Davis - Chicago Tribune
It is the story of a nation, multiracial at its founding, and those who sought to find ways to realize ‘these truths.’ — John S. Gardner - Guardian
This sweeping, sobering account of the American past is a story not of relentless progress but of conflict and contradiction, with crosscurrents of reason and faith, black and white, immigrant and native, industry and agriculture rippling through a narrative that is far from completion. — New York Times Book Review
[Lepore’s] one-volume history is elegant, readable, sobering; it extends a steadying hand when a breakneck news cycle lurches from one event to another, confounding minds and churning stomachs. — Jennifer Szalai - New York Times
Those devoted to an honest reckoning with America’s past have their work cut out for them. Lepore’s book is a good place to start. — H. W. Brands - Washington Post
Sweeping and propulsive. — Boris Kachka - Vulture
In her epic new work, Jill Lepore helps us learn from whence we came. — Natalie Beach - O, Oprah Magazine
Gripping, moving, and beautifully written. — Evan Thomas - Boston Globe
A splendid rendering—filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope—that will please Lepore’s readers immensely and win her many new ones. — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)