Contributors to Lapham's Quarterly

Not to know what happened before one was born is always to be a child.


Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past. 


The texts are drawn from authors on the order of Aristotle, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Thucydides, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, Edward Gibbon, Mahatma Gandhi, Confucius, Honoré de Balzac, Jane Austen, Jorge Luis Borges, Matsuo Bashō, Henry David Thoreau, and Joan Didion. Abridged rather than paraphrased, none of the text in the Quarterly runs to a length longer than six pages, others no more than six paragraphs. Together with passages from the world’s great literature, each issue offers full-color reproductions of paintings and sculpture by the world’s great artists. The connecting of the then with the now is further augmented with the testimony found in the letters, speeches, diaries, and photographs, in five-act plays and three-part songs.


Contact Us
Lapham’s Quarterly does not accept unsolicited original work, but we invite readers to send along interesting, topical, unusual, or enlightening historical documents and articles for use in the Quarterly or online. Letters to the editor may be sent to editorial @ or by mail to:


Lapham’s Quarterly
116 East 16th St, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10003


If you have any questions about a subscription or are experiencing subscription difficulties, please call (877) 890-3001. If outside the U.S., please call (903) 636-1126, or email


Lewis H. Lapham

Formerly the Editor of Harper’s Magazine, he is the author of numerous books, including Money and Class in America, Theater of War, Gag Rule, Pretensions to Empire, and, most recently, Age of Folly. The New York Times has likened him to H.L. Mencken; Vanity Fair has suggested a strong resemblance to Mark Twain; and Tom Wolfe has compared him to Montaigne. A native of San Francisco, Mr. Lapham was educated at Yale and Cambridge.


Executive Editor
Kelly Burdick


Senior Editors
Sarah Fan
Leopold Froehlich
Laurent Merceron


Art Editor

Timothy Don


Design and Production Director

Jason David Brown


Web Editor
Jaime Fuller


Assistant Editor
Caroline Wazer


Executive Assistant
Ann K. Gollin


Marketing and Membership Director

Shelley Shames


Digital Director
Justin Alvarez


Editorial Board
Emily Allen-Hornblower, Noga Arikha, Jack Beatty, Warren Breckman, D. Graham Burnett, David Cannadine, Christopher Carroll, Richard Cohen, Linda Colley, John Crowley, Annie Dillard, Michael Dirda, Barbara Ehrenreich, Aidan Flax-Clark, Peter Foges, Anthony Gottlieb, Anthony Grafton, Hendrik Hertzberg, William Hogeland, Donovan Hohn, Jim Holt, Michael Hudson, Alyssa Loh, Uzoamaka Maduka, John Major, Greil Marcus, Ben Metcalf, Lance Morrow, Susan Brind Morrow, James Miller, Jac Mullen, Lynn Stuart Parramore, Francine Prose, Ron Rosenbaum, Damion Searls, Adam Shatz, Gregory Shaya, Peter T. Struck, Jennifer Szalai, Amor Towles, Curtis White, Sean Wilentz, Simon Winchester, Brenda Wineapple In Memoriam Peter Mayer, Karl Meyer, Theodore Rabb


Web Design


The American Agora Foundation
Bill Ryan, Chairman

Lewis H. Lapham, President
David R. Stack, Secretary
George David, Treasurer
Shelley Ambrose, Larry Berger, Stacey Hadash, Carmella R. Kletjian, Raymond A. Lamontagne, Lisa Lloyd, George Lund, Sandy Gotham Meehan, Thomas M. Siebel In Memoriam Arthur Yorke Allen


Additional Principal Support
Carnegie Corporation of New York, R. Martin Chavez, James J. “Jimmy” Coleman Jr., The Dyson Foundation, EJMP Fund for Philanthropy, Goldman Sachs Gives, The William and Mary Greve Foundation, Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman, Newman’s Own Foundation, Deb and Bill Ryan, Pablo Salome, Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, The Walbridge Fund, Ltd.

Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019
A Compassionate Substance,” by Philip Ball, from Water.
The Fading Stars: A Constellation,” by Holly Haworth, from Night.


Best American Essays 2018
Land of Darkness,” by Suki Kim, from Fear.
In Search of Fear,” by Philippe Petit, from Fear.


Best American Travel Writing 2016
The Foreign Spell,” by Pico Iyer, from Foreigners.


Best American Essays 2015
Strange Days,” by Sven Birkerts, from Time.


Best Food Writing 2014
Last Meals,” by Brent Cunningham, from Death.


Best American Essays 2012
Vanishing Act,” by Paul Collins, from Celebrity.


Best Food Writing 2012
Pastoral Romance,” by Brent Cunningham, from Food.


National Magazine Award Finalist 2011
Honoring our 2010 issues Religion, Arts & Letters, and The City.


Best American Travel Writing 2010
Take Nothing, Leave Nothing,” by Simon Winchester, from Travel.


Best American Essays 2009
And Such Small Deer,” by Garret Keizer, from Book of Nature.


Best New Publication
Utne Independent Press Awards, 2009


Best New Magazine Launch
Library Journal Award, 2008


“If we sat around lamenting about all the book or magazine ideas we wished we’d thought of, this one would be tops. We should pick huge topics; topics that intimidate us with all their possibilities—we would’ve said had we thought of this—and then we’ll compile all the best writing on these topics going back to ancient times. Then we’ll add some amazing contemporary writers and make it all one huge narrative spanning the breadth of human existence. And we’ll do this every three months.”—McSweeney’s Internet Tendency


“Lapham’s Quarterly is a godsend, a genuine treasure for any and all who care about history and ideas and the love of learning. It is superbly edited, beautifully designed and illustrated, and has a good tactile presence exactly in the spirit of its purpose. I don’t know when I’ve been so pleased by something that arrived in the mail unexpectedly. Bravo!”—David McCullough


“Brilliant and much needed.”—Dave Eggers


“No matter how many magazines and journals to which you may subscribe, Lapham’s Quarterly is a necessity. From its very first issue, it has become the Thinking Person’s Guide to where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we may be going. Lewis Lapham’s name on the cover is enough to tell you, you’re in for an intellectual treat.”—Morley Safer


“Lavishly detailed, handsomely produced, and conceptually brilliant...It recontextualizes history and makes it come alive to the sound of battle.”—James Wolcott, Vanity Fair


“Enthralling reading...A magazine that demands focus and engages intellect in order to elicit persuasive emotions.”—Francesca Mari, The New Republic


“Lapham’s Quarterly is careful to avoid narratives bogged down in scholar-speak, instead favoring histories rich in both detail and prose. This commitment to readability makes the journal’s content a unique, pleasant marriage of great storytelling and important historical accounts.”—Morgan Winters, Utne Reader


“The tag line for the recently launched Lapham’s Quarterly is ‘the journal that enlists the counsel of the dead.’ Don't worry: this isn't a horror film. Instead, this thick periodical, helmed by—and named for—Lewis Lapham, culls writings from the history books, and age-old source material. In the new issue, ‘States of War,’ the former editor of Harper’s gets the help of Homer and Woodrow Wilson, who lend perspective to our own modern conflicts.”—The Christian Science Monitor


“It is not the next big thing; it is the real thing, a must-read.”—Ken Alexander, The Walrus (Canada)


“Expertly edited and easy to read.”—The Age (Australia)


“Expertly presented, with a soft matte finish and subdued colors, the magazine has a look and feel that reflect the quality of the fine writing. Essential for academic libraries; highly recommended for public libraries.”—Steve Black, Library Journal


“What one is reminded of in combing the pages, of course, is the degree to which our problems were the problems of our forefathers, too. That’s a lively lesson to keep in mind in our self-absorbed age.”—Baton Rouge Advocate

In partnership with Curio, Lapham’s Quarterly presents audio versions of the following selections from the magazine and the website.


Caroline Alexander, “The Dread Gorgon,” from Fear.


Noga Arikha, “Thoughts Made Visible,” from States of Mind.


Jane Austen, “All in the Family,” from Home.


Francis Bacon, “Hostage Situation,” from Family.


Gaiutra Bahadur, “A Good Story, if I Can Remember It,” from Roundtable.


P.T. Barnum, “The Great American Humbug,” from Swindle & Fraud.


Erica Benner, “The Daimons’ Wisdom,” from Rule of Law.


Deborah Blum, “Death in the Pot,” from Food.


Frank Bures, “Origin Unknown,” from Roundtable.


Christopher Carroll, “Secret Music,” from Music.


Margaret Cavendish, “Seeing Is Believing,” from Discovery.


G.K. Chesterton, “No Place Like Home,” from Home.


Richard Cohen, “The World’s Greatest Outlaw,” from Rule of Law.


Paul Collins, “Trust Issues,” from The Future.


Paul Collins, “Vanishing Act,” from Celebrity.


Alex Cuadros, “Songs from Sinjar,” from Music.


Brent Cunningham, “Last Meals,” from Death.


Natalie Daher, “How to Rescue Women from the Historical Dustbin,” from Roundtable.


Princess Der Ling, “Extreme Makeover,” from Home.


Colin Dickey, “A Fire in the Belly,” from Roundtable.


Frederick Douglass, “Answering to the Charge of Infidelity,” from Foreigners.


Kevan A. Feshami, “Fear of White Genocide,” from Roundtable.


Peter Foges, “My Spy,” from Roundtable.


Emma Garman, “In the Clouds,” from Roundtable.


Elena Goukassian, “Time Lords,” from Roundtable


John Gray, “The Anomaly of Barbarism,” from Disaster.


Alex Green, “ ‘Enemies’ with Disabilities,” from Roundtable.


Alex Green, “Sight Unseen,” from Roundtable.


Zack Harold, “Paradise Lost,” from Roundtable.


Elizabeth Harper, “Reach Out and Touch Faith,” from Roundtable.


Bridey Heing, “Operation Ajax,” from Roundtable.


Rudolph Herzog, “Rise of the Drones,” from Spies.


Jack Hitt, “Our Orgiastic Future,” from Animals.


Jim Holt, “The Grand Illusion,” from Time.


Tanner Howard, “Please, My Digital Archive. It’s Very Sick,” from Roundtable.


Ferris Jabr, “The Person in the Ape,” from States of Mind.


Emma Jacobs, “Edison vs. Scott,” from Roundtable.


James Joyce, “Report Card,” from Youth.


Hugh Kennedy, “Why Have a Caliph?” from Roundtable.


Laleh Khalili, “A World Built on Sand and Oil,” from Trade.


Lewis H. Lapham, “Advertisements for Reality,” from Roundtable.


Sarah Laskow, “The Haunting of a Heights House,” from Roundtable.


Sarah Laskow, “The Nun’s Story,” from Roundtable.


Bess Lovejoy, “Body Snatchers of Old New York,” from Roundtable.


Bess Lovejoy, “A Brief History of Medical Cannibalism,” from Roundtable.


Tyler Malone, “City as Character,” from Roundtable.


Clancy Martin, “We Buy Broken Gold,” from Swindle & Fraud.


Nina Martryis, “Lord Byron’s Darkest Summer,” from Roundtable.


Christy Mathewson, “Inside Baseball,” from Roundtable.


Pablo Maurette, “The Children of Anaxagoras,” from Roundtable.


Jess McHugh, “Old Paris Is No More,” from Roundtable.


Laurent Merceron, “The Botanical Origins of a Medieval Madness,” from Roundtable.


Laurent Merceron, “Gold and Silver Coined from Human Blood,” from Roundtable.


Melissa Mesku, “Restoring the Ship of Theseus,” from Roundtable


Thomas More, “A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” from About Money.


Ralph Nader, “Land of the Lawless,” from Rule of Law.


Roger Pearson, “Voltaire’s Luck,” from Luck.


Philippe Petit, “In Search of Fear,” from Fear.


Jayne Anne Phillips, “Love’s Labor Lost,” from Rivalry & Feud.


Andrea Pitzer, “Enemy Aliens,” from Foreigners.


Amanda Power, “Under Watchful Eyes,” from Spies.


Francine Prose, “The Original Sin,” from Religion


Shelley Puhak, “Killer Queens,” from Roundtable.


Olivia Rutigliano, “The Lady Is a Detective,” from Roundtable.


Ted Scheinman, “Jane Austen’s Trivial Pursuits,” from Roundtable.


Damion Searls, “The Difficult Task of the Future,” from States of Mind.


Maggie Shipstead, “Around Alone,” from The Sea.


Aaron Lake Smith, “The Genius and the Laborer,” from Roundtable.


Moses Smith, “A Grand and Awful Scene,” from The Sea.


Levi Stahl, “A Moral Tale,” from Roundtable.


Peter T. Struck, “Greatest of All Time,” from Roundtable.


Maria Theresa, “Advice to the Once and Future Queen,” from Family.


Henry David Thoreau, “Survival of the Fittest,” from Book of Nature.


Mark Twain, “Campaign Promises,” from Politics.


Ross Ufberg, “The Jones Project,” from Roundtable.


Paul Veyne, “The Oasis of Palmyra,” from Home.


Queen Victoria, “Poor Stupid Me,” from Youth.


H.G. Wells, “A Peculiar Sensation,” from Time.


Edith Wharton, “The Bread of Angels,” from Eros.


Development Director


Lapham’s Quarterly seeks a Development Director to join its staff in New York City. This is a full-time position. In addition to being familiar with Lapham’s Quarterly and its mission, the ideal candidate will have five or more years of fundraising experience, including planning fundraising and donor cultivation events and building and maintaining relationships with donors and foundations.


Key responsibilities include:
—Developing a comprehensive fundraising program to grow the financial resources of the organization
—Managing and tracking multiple prospects and donors
—Writing grants, working with outside grant writers as needed, and serving as the organization’s contact with foundation program officers
—Directing the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Decades Ball
—Producing fundraising and donor cultivation events for the organization’s Janus Society
—Liaising with staff and the Board of Directors to further the foundation’s fundraising efforts
—Preparing briefing materials, donor acknowledgments, and annual reports


Applicants should be highly organized, detail-oriented, comfortable with technology (especially with managing databases), and able to manage complex grant cycles. While Lapham’s Quarterly is a collaborative environment, applicants should be self-driven and able to work independently.


The American Agora Foundation is an equal-opportunity employer. Candidates of color are strongly encouraged to apply. Benefits include twenty-five vacation days, twelve public holidays, and employer-paid health, dental, and vision insurance. Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience.



Established in 2007 by former Harper’s Magazine editor Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that historical consciousness is an asset a democratic republic can ill afford to lose, that history is the root of all education—social and scientific; spiritual, political, and economic. Lapham’s Quarterly is a project of the American Agora Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Lapham’s Quarterly has an annual operating budget of approximately $3 million, of which approximately half is raised from circulation and sales and half from private donors and foundations.


To apply, please send a cover letter, résumé, and salary expectations to





Lapham’s Quarterly offers paid internships in its New York office. The internship lasts twelve weeks, affording interns the opportunity to participate in the full research and production cycle of a single print issue. In addition to fulfilling administrative duties, interns contribute to every phase of the editorial process, including finding and suggesting historical texts, researching and writing charts and graphs, fact-checking, proofreading, pitching Déjà Vu posts for the website, and attending staff and editorial board meetings for the magazine.


Interested candidates should demonstrate a grounding in the history of ideas and an understanding of the Quarterly’s mission with the submission of a cover letter, résumé, and three potential readings for an issue on “Freedom.” The ideal candidate is organized, capable of focusing on details, and comfortable working independently. A writing sample is not necessary; cover letters will be taken to serve as such.


A Lapham’s Quarterly internship pays $15 an hour. The internship is full-time for three months.


The spring internship runs from February 8 through May 7, 2021. The application deadline is December 14, 2020. Please submit materials to


Spring Session
Dates: February 8–May 7, 2021
Deadline: December 14, 2020


Summer Session
Dates: May 10–August 6, 2021
Deadline: March 15, 2021


Fall Session
Dates: August 9–November 5, 2021
Deadline: June 14, 2021


Winter Session
Dates: November 8, 2021–February 4, 2022
Deadline: September 13, 2021

Lapham’s Quarterly does not accept unsolicited original work, but we invite readers to send along interesting, topical, unusual, or enlightening historical documents and articles for use in the Quarterly or online. 


Letters to the editor may be sent to editorial @ or by mail to:


Lapham’s Quarterly
116 East 16th Street, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10003


If you have any questions about a subscription or are experiencing subscription difficulties, please call (877) 890-3001. If outside the U.S., please call (903) 636-1126 or email