These Truths is an expansive and comprehensive history of the United States. With a painstaking attention to the voices rarely heard in the discourse of the nation's history, Jill Lepore focuses on the bloody bondage of African Americans, the silencing of women, and the struggles of the oppressed in the great American experiment. Exhaustive and engaging, Truths asks its readers to consider the consequences of democracy and argues that America's so-called self-evident truths are always being contested. Recommended By Alex Y., Powells.com
In 1776, the claim of “self-evident” equality was incendiary, integral — and hypocritical, as the Founders simultaneously debated whether slaves counted as people. Lepore’s magnificent American history does not shy away from either of these truths, celebrating the genuine triumphs of these United States, while shining a light on the many people history has tried to forget. Recommended By Madeline S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
Along the way, Lepore’s sovereign chronicle is filled with arresting sketches of both well-known and lesser-known Americans, from a parade of presidents and a rogues’ gallery of political mischief makers to the intrepid leaders of protest movements, including Frederick Douglass, the famed abolitionist orator; William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate and ultimately tragic populist; Pauli Murray, the visionary civil rights strategist; and Phyllis Schlafly, the uncredited architect of modern conservatism.
Americans are descended from slaves and slave owners, from conquerors and the conquered, from immigrants and from people who have fought to end immigration. "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. "The past is an inheritance, a gift and a burden," These Truths observes. "It can’t be shirked. There’s nothing for it but to get to know it."
“With this epic work of grand chronological sweep, brilliantly illuminating the idea of truth in the history of our republic, Lepore reaffirms her place as one of one of the truly great historians of our time.” Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard University
“Lepore 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
“No one has written with more passion and brilliance about how a flawed and combustible America kept itself tethered to the transcendent ideals on which it was founded.” Gary Gerstle, author of Liberty and Coercion
“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)
“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, Editors' Choice
“[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
“[B]rilliant…insightful…It isn’t until you start reading it that you realize how much we need a book like this one at this particular moment.” Andrew Sullivan, New York Times Book Review
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. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.