The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History by Jill Lepore



The Whites of Their Eyes:
The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History
Jill Lepore
With a new afterword by the author

Winner of the 2011 Gold Medal in History, Independent Publisher Book Awards
Winner of the 2010 Bronze Medal Book of the Year Award in HistoryForeWord Reviews
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice for 2010
One of U.S. News & World Report‘s (online version) Top Debate Worthy Books of the Year for 2010
A Boston Authors Club Annual Awards Highly Recommended Book for 2011
Honorable Mention for the 2010 PROSE Award in U.S. History, Association of American Publishers

Paperback | 2011 | $16.95 | ($11.87) / £11.95 | (£8.37) | ISBN: 9780691153001
232 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400839810 |
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Reviews | Table of Contents
Prologue[PDF] pdf-icon | Chapter 1[PDF] pdf-icon Maddow interviews Jill Lepore)
Americans have always put the past to political ends. The Union laid claim to the Revolution–so did the Confederacy. Civil rights leaders said they were the true sons of liberty–so did Southern segregationists. This book tells the story of the centuries-long struggle over the meaning of the nation’s founding, including the battle waged by the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and evangelical Christians to “take back America.”

Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, offers a careful and concerned look at American history according to the far right, from the “rant heard round the world,” which launched the Tea Party, to the Texas School Board’s adoption of a social-studies curriculum that teaches that the United States was established as a Christian nation. Along the way, she provides rare insight into the eighteenth-century struggle for independence–a history of the Revolution, from the archives. Lepore traces the roots of the far right’s reactionary history to the bicentennial in the 1970s, when no one could agree on what story a divided nation should tell about its unruly beginnings. Behind the Tea Party’s Revolution, she argues, lies a nostalgic and even heartbreaking yearning for an imagined past–a time less troubled by ambiguity, strife, and uncertainty–a yearning for an America that never was.

The Whites of Their Eyes reveals that the far right has embraced a narrative about America’s founding that is not only a fable but is also, finally, a variety of fundamentalism–anti-intellectual, antihistorical, and dangerously antipluralist.

In a new afterword, Lepore addresses both the recent shift in Tea Party rhetoric from the Revolution to the Constitution and the diminished role of scholars as political commentators over the last half century of public debate.


“Jill Lepore, a historian of the American Revolution and a staff writer at The New Yorker, has written a brief but valuable book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, which combines her own interviews with Tea Partiers (mostly from her home state, Massachusetts) and her deep knowledge of the founders and of their view of the Constitution.”–Alan Brinkley, New York Times Book Review

“Throughout her book Lepore’s implicit question remains always: Don’t these Tea Party people realize how silly they are? They don’t understand history; they need to learn that time moves forward. ‘We cannot go back to the eighteenth century,’ she says, ‘and the Founding Fathers are not, in fact, here with us today.'”–Gordon S. Wood, New York Review of Books

“For a number of years, the author has been contributing pieces to the New Yorker on American colonial history, pithy commentaries shaped by historical evidence and a storyteller’s hand. Here she braids those essays together, which makes them more satisfying and meaningful than if they were merely collected in an anthology. . . . The author is not smug in her treatment of the Tea Partiers, but she refuses to allow them to kidnap and torture history so that it is reduced to fit their fundamentalist mold. . . . Learned, lively and shrewd.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

More reviews

Table of Contents:

Foreword by Ruth O’Brien ix
Prologue: Party Like It’s 1773 1
Chapter 1: Ye Olde Media 20
Chapter 2: The Book of Ages 43
Chapter 3: How to Commit Revolution 70
Chapter 4: The Past upon Its Throne 98
Chapter 5: Your Superexcellent Age 126
Epilogue: Revering America 152
Afterword to the Paperback Edition 167
Acknowledgments 177
Notes 179
Index 209

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