The Past upon Its Throne

by Scott Korb

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

In her recent book, The Whites of Their Eyes, Harvard historian and regular New Yorker contributor Jill Lepore takes a close look at the Tea Party and calls it fundamentalist. The Whites of Their Eyes is a book almost entirely set in greater Boston: at Tea Party gatherings in Green Dragon Tavern, where in 1765 the Sons of Liberty themselves began gathering; at the Old South Meeting House, at re-stagings, by children, of the debates that led to the Boston Tea Party; on the field where the Battle of Lexington and Concord was fought, where on the morning of the annual reenactment Lepore’s family (and “some other sleepy-headed colonials”) wage their own little “battle on the green.”  (One thing to note about the book is how often the facts of Lepore’s own Cambridge life enter the story—in this case, the family’s annual failure to get out of bed early enough to make it to the actual reenactment; they’re there in time for the parade that follows.)

Tea Party fundamentalism—or what Lepore calls “historical fundamentalism”—is of a different kind than the religious fundamentalism The Revealer typically notes, though the two are not mutually exclusive, nor are either particularly wholesome. Continue Reading →