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Thomas Jefferson

Reputation and Legacy
Francis D. Cogliano

BUY Paper · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813927336 · $25.00 · Apr 2008

In his probing new study, Francis Cogliano focuses on Thomas Jefferson’s relation to history, both as the context in which he lived, and as something he made considerable, and conscious, efforts to influence. He was acutely aware that he would be judged by posterity, and he believed that the fate of the republican experiment depended to a large extent on how it was rendered by historians.The first half of the book situates Jefferson's ideas about history within the context of eighteenth-century historical thought. It then considers the efforts Jefferson made to shape the way the history of his life and times would be written: through the careful preservation of most of his personal and public papers, and through the institutions he left behind, including his home, Monticello, and the University of Virginia. The second half of the book considers the results of Jefferson's efforts to shape historical writings about himself and his period, which have issued forth in an unbroken stream from his day to our own. Although Jefferson seemed to have achieved apotheosis in the years following World War II, his rise above controversy was short-lived. Earlier political questions were replaced by arguments over race, class, and gender, and recent scholarship has criticized Jefferson's attitudes and actions with regard to civil liberties, Native Americans, slaves, and women, not least in the context of debates surrounding his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings. Our complex feelings about Jefferson’s relation to these issues are a reflection of the man who helped engineer their place in our historical discourse.


"An exceptionally well-researched and persuasively written book [that] asks who Jefferson was in new and exciting ways. This is a book that needed to be written, and, happily, is one that was undertaken by an exceedingly thorough, judicious, open-minded, and creative historian."—Andrew Burstein, University of Tulsa, author of Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello

"Francis D. Cogliano’s splendid book demonstrates that history is indeed an argument between past and present about the future. Offering formidable research deployed with grace and skill in the service of a powerful and well-crafted argument, this study will be essential reading. It illuminates in myriad ways the history that Jefferson made and historians’ ongoing struggles to figure out what to make of Jefferson. Further, it enriches our understanding of the interactions between history and memory in American culture. It deserves a wide and enthusiastic readership, not just for the moment but for years to come."—R. B. Bernstein, New York Law School, author of Thomas Jefferson

"Thomas Jefferson continues to enthrall, excite, and enrage academics, students, and members of the American public. This book provides a useful study of Jefferson’s construction of his own historical image, and the reconstructions of that image that have occurred over the past half-century."—Simon Newman, University of Glasgow

In Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy Francis D. Cogliano looks at both the impact Jefferson had on his historical moment and the considerable lengths to which he went to secure his legacy.

Jeffersonian America

About the Author(s): 

Francis D. Cogliano is a Reader in History at the University of Edinburgh and the author of Revolutionary America, 1763-1815: A Political History.

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