|Born||August 27, 1966|
|Awards||Bancroft Prize (1999)|
|Alma mater||Tufts University (BA) |
University of Michigan (MA)
Yale University (PhD)
University of California, San Diego
Jill Lepore is an American historian and journalist. She is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she has contributed since 2005. She writes about American history, law, literature, and politics.
Her essays and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Journal of American History, Foreign Affairs, the Yale Law Journal, The American Scholar, and the American Quarterly. Three of her books derive from her New Yorker essays: The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (2012), a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; The Story of America: Essays on Origins (2012), shortlisted for the PEN Literary Award for the Art of the Essay; and The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle for American History (2010). Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014) won the 2015 American History Book Prize.
Lepore was born on August 27, 1966 and grew up in West Boylston, a small town outside Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father was a junior high school principal and her mother was an art teacher. Lepore had no early desire to become a historian but claims to have wanted to be a writer from the age of six. She participated in Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at Tufts University, starting as a math major. Eventually she left ROTC and changed her major to English. She earned her B.A. in English in three years in 1987.
After graduating from Tufts, Lepore had a temporary job working as a secretary at the Harvard Business School before returning to school. She received an M.A. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1990 and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University in 1995, where she specialized in the history of early America.
Lepore taught at the University of California, San Diego from 1995 to 1996 and at Boston University beginning in 1996; she started at Harvard in 2003. In addition to her books and articles on history, in 2008 Lepore published a historical novel, Blindspot, co-written with Jane Kamensky, then a history professor at Brandeis University and now Professor of History and Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University. Previously, Lepore and Kamensky had co-founded an online history journal called Common-place. Lepore is now a history professor at Harvard University, where she holds an endowed chair and teaches American political history. She focuses on missing evidence in historical records and articles.
Lepore gathers historical evidence that allows scholars to study and analyze political processes and behaviors. Her articles are often both historical and political. She has said, "History is the art of making an argument about the past by telling a story accountable to evidence."
Lepore has been contributing to The New Yorker since 2005. In the June 23, 2014, issue she criticized the concept of creative destruction, associated with Austrian-born political economist Joseph Schumpeter. The response of one of those whose work she discusses, fellow Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, was that her article was "a criminal act of dishonesty—at Harvard, of all places".
From 2011 to 2013, Lepore was a visiting scholar of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. She has delivered Theodore H. White Lecture on the Press and Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (2015), the John L. Hatfield Lecture at Lafayette College (2015), the Lewis Walpole Library Lecture at Yale (2013), the Harry F. Camp Memorial Lecture at Stanford (2013), the University of Kansas Humanities Lecture (2013), the Joanna Jackson Goldman Memorial Lectures at the New York Public Library (2012), the Kephardt Lecture at Villanova (2011), the Stafford-Little Lecture at Princeton (2010), and the Walker Horizon Lecture at DePauw (2009). She is the president of the Society of American Historians and an Emeritus Commissioner of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. She has been a consultant and contributor to documentary and public history projects. Her three-part story "The Search for Big Brown" was broadcast on The New Yorker Radio Hour in 2015.
In February 2022, Lepore was one of 38 Harvard faculty to sign a letter to The Harvard Crimson defending Professor John Comaroff, who had been found to have violated the university's sexual and professional conduct policies. The letter defended Comaroff as "an excellent colleague, advisor and committed university citizen" and expressed dismay over his being sanctioned by the university. After students filed a lawsuit with detailed allegations of Comaroff's actions and the university's failure to respond, Lepore was one of several signatories to say that she wished to retract her signature.
Main article: Jill Lepore bibliography