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Cheat sheet:

Jill Lepore

Essential writing from ANTIDOTE panellist, historian, academic and New Yorker staff writer, Jill Lepore

Francesca Breen

Jill Lepore is a Professor of American History and Affiliate Professor of Law at Harvard University, a wide-ranging and prolific essayist at The New Yorker, and host of the podcast The Last Archive. With her finger firmly on the American political pulse, Lepore is an essential voice in these tumultuous times. Thankfully, this year she’s speaking at ANTIDOTE. We’ve put together a collection of some of her most influential and important, prize-winning books and essays for you to brush up on before the festival.

These Truths: A History of the United States (2018)

An international bestseller, named one of Time's top ten non-fiction books of the decade, Lepore offers a masterful and urgently needed reckoning of the genesis, conflicts and contradictions of a divided nation: America, ambitiously covers centuries of history in its almost 900 pages. As Time puts it, this is exactly the kind of history readers need today, helping us recognize that "our history is always present". 

“Can a political society really be governed by reflection and election, by reason and truth, rather than by accident and violence, by prejudice and deceit? Is there any arrangement of government—any constitution—by which it’s possible for a people to rule themselves, justly and fairly, and as equals, through the exercise of judgement and care?”

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Great Equaliser” (2020)

An ode to the trailblazing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, scholar, lawyer, judge, and justice of the Supreme Court, who died in September. Lepore applauds “how a scholar, advocate, and judge upended the entirety of American political thought”.

“Preserving the Court’s independence will require courage and conviction of Ginsburgian force… A century after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s pioneering career as a scholar, advocate, and judge stands as a monument to the power of dissent.”

READ MORE IN THE NEW YORKER

New York Burning (2005)

Leaving no stone unturned, Lepore admirably examines one of the – almost forgotten – darkest episodes in New York City’s history: the violent witch hunts surrounding the alleged slave rebellions of 1741. A Pulitzer Prize finalist and Anisfield-Wolf Award Winner, New York Burning exposes the aftermath of a series of fires that blazed across frigid Manhattan, sparking mass hysteria, great fear, suspicion, and extreme, torturous racism.

“This book tells the story of how one kind of slavery made another kind of liberty possible in eighteenth-century New York, a place whose past has long been buried.”

“The Invention of the Police” (2020)

Lepore is unafraid to tackle racial injustices in America, diving into gun violence, slavery, incarcerations, the Black Lives Matter protests, the role of American policing under various political leaders, and how they differ to its European and English counterparts. This is a timely, essential piece of writing that tells the full story of an increasingly contentious institution.

“Trump is not the king; the law is king. The police are not the king’s men; they are public servants. And, no matter how desperately Trump would like to make it so, policing really isn’t a partisan issue.”

READ MORE IN THE NEW YORKER

The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014)

In this terrific exposé, Lepore delves into the secret history of the most popular female comic book superhero of all time: Wonder Woman. Through the life of the quirky creator William Moulton Marsten (an American psychologist who also invented the lie detector test) and his most unconventional, bohemian home life, in the context of twentieth-century feminism.

“Wonder Woman isn't only an Amazonian princess with badass boots. She's the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman suffrage campaigns of the 1910s and ends with the troubled place of feminism fully a century later. Feminism made Wonder Woman. And then Wonder Woman remade feminism....”

READ MORE IN LEPORE’S ESSAY IN THE NEW YORKER

Hear from Jill Lepore at the ANTIDOTE talk 'The End of America', alongside host Damien Cave.

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