Jill Lepore These Truths: A History Of The United States

Last updated: October 17, 2022

Written by Harvard professor Jill Lepore, this book takes an introspective look at the history of America in an effort in an effort to reflect on where we've been. The chapters are organized in sections by both time and theme to make it easier for readers to absorb the information. This book focuses on the three truths "we hold to be self-evident:" political equality, natural rights and the sovereignty of the people.

Jill Lepore These Truths: A History Of The United States

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Product Details

Key Takeaway: This American history book tells the history of the country in a way intended to be both reflective and insightful.

In our analysis of 34 expert reviews, the Jill Lepore These Truths: A History Of The United States placed 3rd when we looked at the top 7 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

In the most ambitious one volume American history in decades, award winning historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation, an urgently needed reckoning with the beauty and tragedy of American history. Written in elegiac prose, Lepore’s groundbreaking investigation 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. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, Lepore argues, because self government depends on it. 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 traces the intertwined histories of American politics, law, journalism, and technology, from the colonial town meeting to the nineteenth century party machine, from talk radio to twenty first century Internet polls, from Magna Carta to the Patriot Act, from the printing press to Facebook News.

Expert Reviews

What reviewers liked

Harvard professor Jill Lepore chooses to begin her history of the United States with that quotation, and much of the worst of America, from lynching to brutality to Native Americans, is rightly here. But her true purpose is much broader: as she writes, the constitution adopted in 1787 was meant to determine whether government could rule “not by accident and force but by reason and choice”. Seeks to be scrupulously fair to the modern conservative movement, devoting numerous pages to its intellectual origins as well as to its nativist and conspiratorial elements.
It encompasses interesting takes on democracy and technology, shifts in demographics, revolutions in economics and the very nature of modernity. It’s a big sweeping book, a way for us to take stock at this point in the journey, to look back, to remind us who we are and to point to where we’re headed.
Lepore generally lets her story tell itself. Where she renders judgments, they are usually sound. There’s not much historiography in Lepore’s book, which is another good thing; the history of history can be deadly dull.
I loved the book and hope lots of people read it. In keeping with its title, it’s the most honest account of the American story I’ve ever read, and one of the most beautifully written. Lepore comments in her conclusion that simplistic, feel-good accounts of our past undermine and belittle “the American experiment, making it … a daffy, reassuring bedtime story.” These Truths is just the opposite.
The chapters of These Truths are organized by both time and theme; she has sections that center on industrialization, mass communication, modernism and so on. This allows her to focus on topics that have been covered before with a new angle, placing them in fresh, but always accurate, contexts. And crucially, she often turns her sights on names that don't often appear in school textbooks
Lepore’s work for The New Yorker has allowed her to develop an engaging narrative style that relies heavily on exact detail and clever metaphors.
It’s been good, above all, because she is a superb storyteller. Her fans attest to weeping over These Truths, and I’ll confess to feeling a prelachrymal lump in my throat more than once while reading it.

What reviewers didn't like

Lepore panders a little to liberal sensibilities. And so in her account, Communism was no real threat at all.
But any reader who expects a primer on America’s political evolution is going to be at a loss at times. Lepore admits to paying little attention to military history, yet the short shrift she gives to the Civil War, as an episode in American political history even apart from the battles, is going to leave uninitiated readers mystified as to why that conflict still roils the nation.
Facts, knowledge, experience, proof.' (c) Not too much of all that. A lot of posturing instead. 'Storytelling, and truth' have had a hard time in here. And 'truth' might have been lost in all the fantasy and conjecture.
After These Truths appeared, historian Christine DeLucia and other critics noticed that Lepore had made little room in her story for Native Americans, especially in the latter half.
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