Quillette is named after the French word for a withy cutting planted so that it takes root—used here as a metaphor for an essay.
Quillette was launched in October 2015 in Sydney, Australia, by Claire Lehmann. The website drew significant public attention on 7 August 2017 after publishing the responses of four scientists (Lee Jussim, David P. Schmitt, Geoffrey Miller and Debra W. Soh) to James Damore's controversial memo "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber". The website was temporarily shut down by a DDoS attack following publication of the piece.
In an interview with Psychology Today, Quillette founder Claire Lehmann said the magazine provides "an alternative to the blank slate view... very common in left-leaning media." Bari Weiss has called Claire Lehmann a member of the Intellectual dark web.
In 2016 Jerry Coyne compared it to the longer-established site Slate, "but more serious, more intellectual, and without any Regressive Leftism". In an article for The Outline, writer Gaby Del Valle classifies Quillette as "libertarian-leaning", "academia-focused" and "a hub for reactionary thought." In the Seattle newspaper, The Stranger, Katie Herzog writes that it has won praise "from both Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins" adding that "most of the contributors are academics but the site reads more like a well researched opinion section than an academic journal." In an opinion piece for USA Today, columnist Cathy Young describes Quillette as "libertarian-leaning". Articles in Vice and PJ Media describe Quillette as a libertarian publication.
Writing for The Guardian, Jason Wilson describes Quillette as "a website obsessed with the alleged war on free speech on campus". Writing for The Washington Post, Aaron Hanlon describes Quillette as a "magazine obsessed with the evils of 'critical theory' and postmodernism". Writing for New York's column The Daily Intelligencer Andrew Sullivan describes Quillette as "refreshingly heterodox". In a piece for Slate, Daniel Engber suggested that while some of its output was "excellent and interesting", the average Quillette story "is dogmatic, repetitious, and a bore". He wrote that it describes "even modest harms inflicted via groupthink—e.g., dropped theater projects, flagging book sales, condemnatory tweets—as 'serious adversity'", arguing that various authors in Quillette engage in the same victim mentality that they attempt to criticize. In a Daily Beast article, Alex Leo described Quillette as "a site that fancies itself intellectually contrarian but mostly publishes right-wing talking points couched in grievance politics".