|Born||August 27, 1966|
|Alma mater||Tufts University
University of Michigan
|Awards||Bancroft Prize (1999)|
|Institutions||Harvard University (2003-)
University of California, San Diego 1995-1996
Jill Lepore (born August 27, 1966) is an American historian. 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). The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014) is a winner of the 2015 American History Book Prize.
Lepore was born and grew up in West Boylston, a small town outside of Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father was junior high school principal, and her mother was an art teacher. Although she had no early desire to become a historian, she claims to have wanted to be a writer from the age of six. Lepore entered college with a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship, starting as a math major. Eventually she left ROTC and changed her major to English.
Lepore earned her B.A. in English from Tufts University in 1987, 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 from 1996 before starting at Harvard in 2003. In addition to her books and articles on history, in 2008 Lepore published a historical novel, Blindspot, written with co-author 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. She posts a bibliography with sources for some of her New Yorker articles on her website. In the June 23, 2014 New Yorker issue she sharply criticized fellow Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen for his widely acclaimed work on disruption. Christensen replied that "I hope you can understand why I am mad that a woman of her stature could perform such 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.