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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking work of history that explicates Thomas Jefferson's vision of himself, the American Revolution, Christianity, slavery, and race.

Thomas Jefferson is still presented today as a hopelessly enigmatic figure despite being written about more than any other Founding Father. Lauded as the most articulate voice of American freedom even as he held people in bondage, Jefferson is variably described by current-day observers as a hypocrite, an atheist, and a simple-minded proponent of limited government.

Now, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed teams up with the country's leading Jefferson scholar, Peter S. Onuf, to present an absorbing and revealing character study that finally clarifies the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson.

Tracing Jefferson's development and maturation from his youth to his old age, the authors explore what they call the "empire" of Jefferson's imagination - his expansive state of mind born of the intellectual influences and life experiences that led him into public life as a modern avatar of the enlightenment, who often likened himself to an ancient figure - "the most blessed of the patriarchs".

©2016 Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf (P)2016 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"Karen Chilton's fluid alto is a good fit for this biography of Thomas Jefferson.... Chilton's pacing and inflection are never off. She narrates with a calm demeanor, competently affecting various accents for quotes and ably giving subtle expression to the narrative. It all adds up to an enjoyable listening experience." (AudioFile)

What members say

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Most Hammered of the Patriarchs

As a Southerner who has always been a huge TJ fan, I can quite readily accept the fact that he was seriously conflicted between his stated ideals of citizen equality (which he failed to fully extend to women and even moreso come to grips with toward the enslaved) and his personal life that clearly included taking advantage of his slave Sally Hemmings as his mistress. While this inconsistency certainly merits exploration, by the midpoint of the book I was really getting tired of the unrelenting way the author continually beat the listener over the head on this point. I felt this continual focus resulted in giving short shrift to the many other activities and accomplishments of this classic Renaissance man.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

This book is a huge disappointment. The authors do not attempt to understand Jefferson. They intend to indict him. They review most historical letters and negative comments as true and evidence against him. They also throw around clinical psychological descriptions of Jefferson as additional evidence against him. A licensed psychologist would cringe at utilizing such descriptions with so little objective data.

More than 200 years later they seem to have a clear knowledge of what Jefferson was thinking. All of this makes the book suspect as the authors clearly have an agenda to prosecute Jefferson and not to help readers understand this complex and interesting historical American.


Steve

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Repetitive, overly rhetorical style, unpleasant performance

This book lacks academic rigor, IMHO. Instead of stating a thesis and supporting with well researched evidence, the author relies too heavily on repetition and rhetorical style . Also, there is an assumption that the reader is well versed in US History of the era, which creates a paradox: a reader sufficiently knowledgeable to use this book on its own wouldn't find it particularly informative, fresh or insightful, and someone with a only passing knowledge would need additional references to augment the scope of this book. It's also highly repetitive and performed in a preacher's style, as if the author believed a thesis can be substantiated by repetition of an opinion delivered with great feeling in a sing song . There wasn't much new for me in this book, and I didn't have the sense that the info it provided supported its title.

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A Poor Attempt to Belittle Jefferson

The book selectively uses facts out of context and contradicts itself in a futile attempt to belittle Jefferson. An obvious attempt to reduce Jefferson and the work that laid the foundation of modern government.

4 of 10 people found this review helpful