These Truths: A History of the United States

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W. W. Norton & Company, Sep 18, 2018 - History - 960 pages

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."


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User Review  - lauralkeet -

These Truths is a comprehensive history of the United States from a political perspective, focused largely on who was in power and how they shaped the nation. But rather than idolizing these figures ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat -

Lepore’s political history focuses on who was allowed to be part of the process of politics over the years, and on the epistemology of political knowledge as mediated by various sources. Benjamin ... Read full review


The Question Stated
THE IDEA 14921799
Two The Rulers and the Ruled
Three Of Wars and Revolutions
Four The Constitution of a Nation
Five Six Seven Eight A Democracy of Numbers
Part Three
Nine Ten Eleven Of Citizens Persons and People
Twelve The Brutality of Modernity
Part Four
Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen A World of Knowledge
Sixteen America Disrupted
The Question Addressed
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About the author (2018)

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.

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