Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy

Synopsis

This first major study of Thomas Jefferson's reputation in nearly fifty years is concerned with Jefferson and history-both as something Jefferson made and something that he sought to shape. Jefferson was acutely aware that he would be judged by posterity and he deliberately sought to influence history's judgment of him. He did so, it argues, in order to promote his vision of a global republican future. It begins by situating Jefferson's ideas about history within the context of eighteenth-century historical thought, and 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 his personal and public papers and his home, Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia. The second half of the book considers the results of Jefferson's efforts to shape historical writing by examining the evolution of his reputation since the Second World War. Recent scholarship has examined Jefferson's attitudes and actions with regard to Native Americans, African slaves, women and civil liberties and found him wanting. Jefferson has continued to be a controversial figure; DNA testing proving that he fathered children by his slave Sally Hemings being the most recent example, perhaps encapsulating this best of all. This is the first major study to examine the impact of the Hemings controversy on Jefferson's reputation. Key Features
• The first study of Jefferson's reputation to be published since 1960• Considers the impact of slavery on Jefferson's reputation and Jefferson's relationship with slavery
• Explores the history of the Sally Hemings controversy