“Nothing short of a masterpiece.”—NPR Books
A New York Times and 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
It’s all here: the actual histories of the United States, the high ideals and low meanness, the cool empiricism of the country’s founding, and the violent, berserker streak that runs through everything that came afterwards. Harvard historian Jill Lepore’s writing is charming and attentive; she refers to These Truths as “an old-fashioned civics book,” but its ambition and wit make it different from any textbook we’ve encountered. Skeptical and searching, this is American history alive with the values of the country it examines.
The principles of the Declaration of Independence get betrayed, fought over, and sometimes fulfilled in this probing political history of the Unites States. Harvard historian and New Yorker writer Lepore (Book of Ages) explores how ideals of liberty, equality, and happiness have fueled conflicts from the colonial era, when American slave owners protested taxation without representation as a form of slavery, to the struggles of African-Americans, women, immigrants, and workers for freedom, votes, and civil rights. Her viewpoint is progressive she spotlights neglected heroes like George Washington's runaway slaves and People's Party orator Mary Lease but she puts forth evenhanded assessments of latter-day partisan wrangles, castigating both the alt-right and the "sanctimonious accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia" of the campus left. Lepore sometimes strains for poetic, even psychedelic, imagery her impression of the Civil War, with "giant armies wielding unstoppable machines, as if monsters with scales of steel had been let loose on the land to maul and maraud, and to eat even the innocent," feels like a Transformers movie and she leaves out much historical detail to concentrate on politics, constitutional struggles, and evolving ideologies. The payoff: she unifies a complex and conflicted history into a coherent, focused, engrossing narrative with insights that resonate for modern readers. Photos.