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Jill Lepore: The Tea Party And The Battle Over American History

Andrew Walsh
12/02/2010 at 8:00 p.m.

Members of the modern tea party movement take their cues from history. The only problem is the history books they read are often wrong.

But that's no reason to look down on them argues Harvard historian Jill Lepore. In fact, she says, most of us don't have our facts straight when it comes to the founding of this country. Most kids learn about the American Revolution in elementary school, and they rarely visit the subject again in college. The Boston Tea Party, the Continental Congress, the entire fight for independence and the creation of a new government — our versions of these stories are often legends filled with exaggeration and oversimplification.

Lepore visited Seattle in October, 2010, to talk about her book "The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History." But her talk was not a condemnation of the far right wing. Instead, Lepore showed how both ends of the political spectrum have misrepresented history to further their causes, and she puts most of the blame on her own profession. If historians did a better job teaching this stuff, she points out, we'd all be better off.


Jill Lepore teaches and studies the history of Colonial, Revolutionary and Antebellum America at Harvard University. She's also a staff writer for The New Yorker.

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