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These Truths
Cover of These Truths
These Truths
A History of the United States

"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.

"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.

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About the Author-
  • Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her many books include The Secret History of Wonder Woman, a national bestseller, and Book of Ages, a finalist for the National Book Award.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2018

    America may be grounded in basic truths--political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people--but as Harvard historian and National Book Award finalist Lepore notes, "A nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, sovereignty in a land of conquest, will fight, forever, over the meaning of its history." Her weighty one-volume history finds meaning in the contradictions.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2018
    The celebrated New Yorker writer and Bancroft Prize winner tells the American story."A nation born in revolution will forever struggle against chaos," writes Lepore (History/Harvard Univ.; Joe Gould's Teeth, 2016, etc.). In this mammoth, wonderfully readable history of the United States from Columbus to Trump, the author relies on primary sources to "let the dead speak for themselves," creating an enthralling, often dramatic narrative of the American political experiment based on Thomas Jefferson's "truths" of political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. The author recounts major events--the Revolution, Civil War, world wars, Vietnam, 9/11, and the war on terror--while emphasizing the importance of facts and evidence in the national story, as well as the roles of slavery ("America's Achilles' heel") and women, both absent in the founding documents. Lepore offers crisp, vivid portraits of individuals from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine to Liberator writer Maria W. Stewart and preacher David Walker to contemporaries like "rascal" Bill Clinton, sporting a "grin like a 1930s comic-strip scamp." "To study the past is to unlock the prison of the present," writes the author, noting recurrent debates about guns, abortion, and race. "Slavery wasn't an aberration in an industrial economy; slavery was its engine," she reminds. Throughout, Lepore provides sharp observations ("instead of Marx, America had Thoreau") and exquisite summaries: In World War I, "machines slaughtered the masses. Europe fell to its knees. The United States rose to its feet." She discusses the "aching want" of the Depression and the "frantic, desperate, and paranoid" politics of today. Always with style and intelligence, Lepore weaves stories of immigrants and minorities, creates moving scenes (Margaret Fuller's death in a storm off New York City), and describes the importance of photography and printed newspapers in the lives of a divided people now "cast adrift on the ocean of the Internet."A splendid rendering--filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope--that will please Lepore's readers immensely and win her many new ones.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 16, 2018
    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.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from July 1, 2018
    Harvard professor, New Yorker staff writer, and best-selling author Lepore (Joe Gould's Teeth, 2016) has written an ambitious and provocative attempt to interpret American history as an effort to fulfill and maintain certain fundamental principles. These truths, as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, include political equality, natural (or creator-given) rights, and the ultimate sovereignty of the people. Though chronologically structured, this is more of a civics lesson than a narrative history. Throughout this journey from Columbus to the present, Lepore consistently stresses the often-anguishing contradictions between the ideals and realities of American life. A nation born in liberty accepted the enslavement of millions. The hope that technological progress would enhance freedom was accompanied by terrible economic exploitation in eighteenth-century mines and factories. But this is not a one-sided carping over national sins. Using a series of beautifully written vignettes, Lepore captures the nobility of the individuals and various movements that fought to narrow the gap between principles and everyday life. Of course, generally speaking, people don't live their lives as if they are part of a moral struggle or social experiment. Still, in the age of Trump, in which many long-accepted verities seem to be crumbling, Lepore's far-reaching interpretative history demands serious consideration.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

  • Natalie Beach;O, Oprah Magazine In her epic new work, Jill Lepore helps us learn from whence we came.
  • Jack E. Davis;Chicago Tribune [These Truths] captures the fullness of the past, where hope rises out of despair, renewal out of destruction, and forward momentum out of setbacks.
  • John S. Gardner;Guardian It is the story of a nation, multiracial at its founding, and those who sought to find ways to realize 'these truths.'
  • Boris Kachka;Vulture Sweeping and propulsive.
  • Andrew Sullivan;New York Times Book Review 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.
  • H. W. Brands;Washington Post 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.
  • Jennifer Szalai;New York Times [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.
  • New York Times Book Review 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.
  • Evan Thomas;Boston Globe Gripping, moving, and beautifully written.
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) A splendid rendering—filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope—that will please Lepore's readers immensely and win her many new ones.
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