These Truths: A History of the United States / Jill Lepore


An Amazon Best Book of September 2018:: It takes an ambitious historian to write a single volume history of the United States: Enter Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer. These Truths sets out first to remind people how the United States got its start. The “truths,” as Thomas Jefferson called them, were political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. But Lepore also notes that history is a form of inquiry, something to be questioned, discussed, disputed. Has this country lived up to These Truths? she asks. The answer, as you might expect, is yes and no (though more yes than no). And the book itself is engrossing and even-handed, examining our contradictions—like a land of liberty supporting slavery—and singling out important historical figures, some well-known—like Benjamin Franklin—as well as others who were key voices in their time, but have since been left on history’s curb—like Mary Lease, leading voice of the People’s Party. As the book traces wars, policy decisions, and national debates, one can’t help but feel that the arguments we are seeing today have been carried out all throughout our history. When the final chapter (America, Disrupted) brings us to Obama, and then Trump, the narrative has lost no steam—rather, it has coalesced into a national story approaching coherence, something resembling the Founding Fathers’ more perfect union, though never actually perfect. --Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review
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