In an essay called “Historians Who Love Too Much: Reflections on microhistory and biography", Lepore, herself a microhistorian, set out four propositions to show the difference between one and the other:
1) Unlike biography, the assumption in microhistory is that the value of an individual’s life story “lies in how it serves as an allegory for the culture as the whole”.
2) Microhistorians eschew cradle-to-grave projects because their interest lies in solving “small mysteries about a person’s life as a means to exploring the culture”.
3) Biography is about not betraying intimacy; by contrast, microhistory will use any means necessary “to resurrect those who did not [leave abundant records]”.
4) Biographers tend to identify with their subjects; microhistorians tend to judge them: “For this reason, a microhistorian may be a character in his own book”.*
We first heard of Jill Lepore with the publication of her biography of Jane Franklin, Ben Franklin's sister, in 2013. Turns out she has an impressive back catalog, as well as publishing a new book on Wonder Woman this year. If you like to read about history, why not give Jill Lepore a try?
Blindspot: By A Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in DisguiseStewart Jameson, a Scottish portrait painter fleeing his debtors in Edinburgh, has washed up on the British Empire's far shores—in the city of Boston, lately seized with the spirit of liberty. Eager to begin anew, he advertises for an apprentice, but the lad who comes knocking is no lad at all. Fanny Easton is a fallen woman from Boston's most prominent family who has disguised herself as a boy to become Jameson's defiant and seductive apprentice. Written with wit and exuberance by accomplished historians, Blindspot is an affectionate send-up of the best of eighteenth-century fiction. It celebrates the art of the Enlightenment and the passion of the American Revolution by telling stories of ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary time.
[with Jane Kamensky]
[with Jane Kamensky]
A riveting work of historical detection revealing that the origins of one the worlds most iconic superheroes hides within it a fascinating family story and a crucial history of twentieth-century feminism Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is the most popular female superhero of all time. Aside from Superman and Batman, no superhero has lasted as long or commanded so vast and wildly passionate a following. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she has also has a secret history. Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore has uncovered an astonishing trove of documents, including the never-before-seen private papers of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman's creator... The Secret History of Wonder Woman is a tour de force of intellectual and cultural history. Wonder Woman, Lepore argues, is the missing link in the history of the struggle for women's rights a chain of events that begins with the women's suffrage campaigns of the early 1900s and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later. **all book blurbs taken from the library catalog unless otherwise noted
Jill Lepore: A Historian's History [The Harvard Crimson] The Microhistorian [Dissent] The Public Historian [Humanities]
Jill Lepore and the microhistory of America [TLS] * Inside the List [New York Times]