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These Truths: A History of the United States

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“Nothing short of a masterpiece.” —NPR Books
A New York Times Bestseller and a 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.

ISBN-13: 9780393357424

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Norton W. W. & Company Inc.

Publication Date: 10-01-2019

Pages: 960

Product Dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University, where she teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, the humanities, and American political history. Her one-semester undergraduate course on the history of the United States features weekly debates in which students use primary sources to argue over competing historical interpretations of turning points in American history. She is the author of The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity (winner of the Bancroft Prize), New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), The Secret History of Wonder Woman (winner of the American History Book Prize), and many other titles. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, host of the podcast The Last Archive, and she was named the winner of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought in 2021.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Question Stated xi

Part 1 The Idea (1492-1799)

1 The Nature of the Past 3

2 The Rulers and the Ruled 31

3 Of Wars and Revolutions 72

4 The Constitution of a Nation 109

Part 2 The People (1800-1865)

5 A Democracy of Numbers 153

6 The Soul and the Machine 189

7 Of Ships and Shipwrecks 232

8 The Face of Battle 272

Part 3 The State (1866-1945)

9 Of Citizens, Persons, and People 311

10 Efficiency and the Masses 361

11 A Constitution of the Air 421

12 The Brutality of Modernity 472

Part 4 The Machine (1946-2016)

13 A World of Knowledge 521

14 Rights and Wrongs 589

15 Battle Lines 646

16 America, Disrupted 719

Epilogue: The Question Addressed 785

Acknowledgments 791

Notes 793

Illustration Credits 881

Index 889