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.
To date, Lapham’s Quarterly has published forty-three issues, each one 224 generously illustrated pages without advertising. Four times a year the Quarterly’s editors focus on a question of primary and always current concern—war, politics, money, religion, law—by placing the voice and witness of the past at the service of the present. The great books made topical.
Eighty or ninety texts are drawn from authors on the order of Aristotle, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Thucydides, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, James Baldwin, Niccolò Machiavelli, Mahatma Gandhi, Confucius, Cicero, Honoré de Balzac, Jorge Luis Borges, 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, some no more than six paragraphs. Each issue offers full-color reproductions of works by the world’s great artists—from ancient Indian statues to High Renaissance paintings and modern photojournalism. The connecting of the then with the now is further augmented with testimony found in letters, speeches, diaries, proclamations, and arrest warrants; with maps, charts, and lists; and with original essays by contemporary writers and scholars, among them Paul Veyne, Caroline Alexander, Renata Adler, J. Hoberman, William Kentridge, John Gray, Philippe Petit, Suki Kim, Erica Benner, and Tim Parks.
The publication has expanded its audience in each year of its existence; it now reaches more than 40,000 readers nationwide, with subscribers in all fifty states. It regularly sells more than 10,000 copies on the newsstand and is ranked in the top 100 titles sold at Barnes & Noble (out of more than 4,500 titles), standing at number 8 in the category of current events.
The Quarterly’s website (www.laphamsquarterly.org) reaches 200,000 readers per month in addition to a digital audience of more than 40,000 newsletter subscribers, 80,000 Facebook fans, and 40,000 Twitter followers. The site features original online-only essays and excerpts from newly published works of history. By making relevant historical context readily available on smartphones and computer screens, the Quarterly’s online presence works against the amnesiac sense of the internet’s perpetual, and therefore often disorienting, present.
Early on in the Quarterly’s existence, the historian David McCullough judged the project to be “a godsend, a genuine treasure for any and all who care about history and ideas and the love of learning.”
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…