Jill Lepore, award-winning American historian and writer, will join the Harvard Law School faculty as a professor of law, effective July 1, 2024. She will retain a concurrent appointment as the David Woods Kemper ‘41 Professor of American History in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Her scholarship focuses primarily on the absences and asymmetries in the historical record, with a particular emphasis on the histories and technologies of evidence.
“We’re delighted that renowned historian Jill Lepore will join our faculty,” said John F. Manning ’85, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law. “Her powerful and fascinating historical work contains important insights vital to understanding the evolution of the U.S. constitutional order and the history of the nation. Harvard Law students will learn so much from this extraordinary scholar and gifted writer.”
A celebrated historian and author of more than a dozen volumes, Lepore’s first book, “The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity,” was awarded the Bancroft Prize in 1999, while her third history, “New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan,” won the Anisfield-Wolf Award in 2006. In addition to these and many other recognitions, Lepore has been a finalist for the National Book Award; the National Magazine Award; and, twice, for the Pulitzer Prize.
Lepore joined the Harvard History Department in 2003 and served as chair of the History and Literature Program in 2005-10, 2012, and 2014. At Harvard Law School, Lepore previously served as an affiliate professor of law teaching several classes over the years, including most recently “The Constitution in American History,” with Professor Ken Mack ’91.
“I’ve loved teaching at the law school here and there over the last few years and I’m thrilled to be joining the faculty more formally,” she said.
Lepore’s “These Truths: A History of the United States” (2018) was named one of Time magazine’s top ten non-fiction books of the decade; “IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future” (2020) was longlisted for the National Book Award; “The Secret History of Wonder Woman” (2014) was a national bestseller and winner of the 2015 American History Book Prize; “The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death” (2012) was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction; “The Story of America: Essays on Origins” (2012) was 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) was a Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her latest book is “The Deadline,” a collection of American history essays on subjects ranging from Herman Melville to AI.
Lepore, who is on sabbatical during the 2023-2024 academic year, is currently working on a long-term research project called Amend, an NEH-funded data collection of attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution.
A prize-winning instructor, Lepore was named Harvard College Professor in 2012, in recognition of distinction in undergraduate teaching. She teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, the humanities, and American political history.
Lepore is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she has been contributing essays American history, law, literature, and politics since 2005. Her audio storytelling includes, “The Last Archive,” “Elon Musk: The Evening Rocket;” and the audiobook, “Who Killed Truth?” Her three-part story, “The Search for Big Brown,” was broadcast on The New Yorker Radio Hour in 2015.
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, American Scholar, and the American Quarterly. They have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Latvian, Swedish, French, Chinese, and Japanese, and have been widely anthologized, including in collections of the best legal writing and the best technology writing.
Lepore received a 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.
Lepore is the recipient of many honors, awards, and honorary degrees, including from Yale, NYU, and Tufts. She has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the American Philosophical Society. Her research has been funded by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Foundation, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the Charles Warren Center, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. In 2021, she was awarded the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought.
Professor of Law
Professor Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, where her essays include histories of the Constitution, the Supreme Court, debt, voting, torture, reproductive rights, the right to privacy, the gun debate, and the right to die.