"Most Blessed of the Patriarchs"

Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination

Annette Gordon-Reed (Author, Harvard Law School), Peter S. Onuf (Author, University of Virginia)

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Overview | Formats

"An important book…[R]ichly rewarding. It is full of fascinating insights about Jefferson." —Gordon S. Wood, New York Review of Books

Hailed by critics and embraced by readers, "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs" is one of the richest and most insightful accounts of Thomas Jefferson in a generation. Following her Pulitzer Prize–winning The Hemingses of Monticello¸ Annette Gordon-Reed has teamed with Peter S. Onuf to present a provocative and absorbing character study, "a fresh and layered analysis" (New York Times Book Review) that reveals our third president as "a dynamic, complex and oftentimes contradictory human being" (Chicago Tribune). Gordon-Reed and Onuf fundamentally challenge much of what we thought we knew, and through their painstaking research and vivid prose create a portrait of Jefferson, as he might have painted himself, one "comprised of equal parts sun and shadow" (Jane Kamensky).

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • April 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-63149-251-8
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 400 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book Cover"Most Blessed of the Patriarchs": Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination


Endorsements & Reviews

“Ambitious…Gordon-Reed and Onuf rightly highlight Jefferson's ideas, words and charm, the strengths that brought him such success in his life and that have sustained his standing for centuries.” — David O. Stewart, Washington Post

“A fresh and layered analysis, one centered more on [Jefferson’s] interior life than his deeds for posterity…Gordon-Reed and Onuf are not the first to search for other ways into Jefferson’s private place, nor will they be the last. But they have provided a smart and useful map for those who are certain to follow.” — Peter Baker, New York Times Book Review

“Provocative…Gordon-Reed and Onuf employ their considerable historical and literary skills to collage an unconventional portrait of Jefferson…Few historians are as well suited to examine Jefferson in this manner…The Jefferson who emerges in these pages is a dynamic, complex and oftentimes contradictory human being.” — Walton Muyumba, Chicago Tribune

“In their search for understanding rather than for comfortable bromides, Gordon-Reed and Onuf exemplify a virtue that Jefferson admired, even though, in this case, it does not always tend to his advantage.” — Matthew C. Simpson, New Republic

“Given that Jefferson believed that no generation can have a rightful claim to govern another, it is fitting that Gordon-Reed and Onuf have given us a new and empowering perspective on the private and public life of one of our greatest Americans. It is a book with which the next generation can judge, and be enlightened by, Jefferson’s words and deeds.” — Jeremy D. Bailey, San Francisco Chronicle

“With characteristic insight and intellectual rigor, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf have produced a powerful and lasting portrait of the mind of Thomas Jefferson. This is an essential and brilliant book by two of the nation’s foremost scholars—a book that will, like its protagonist, endure.” — Jon Meacham, author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

“This inspired collaboration takes us as close as we’re likely to get to the way Thomas Jefferson understood himself and his times. Not content with clichés about a man who made his world anew, Gordon-Reed and Onuf show us the world that made the man…. Here is Jefferson as he might have painted his own image, a self-portrait comprised of equal parts sun and shadow.” — Jane Kamensky, author of Copley: A Life in Color

“A peerless team, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf pierce the mysteries of Jefferson’s character and at last offer a compelling explanation of how the republican statesman and plantation patriarch could coexist in a single soul. Jefferson’s flaw was not hypocrisy but conviction, his unswerving belief in paternalism as empowering and beneficent.” — Danielle Allen, author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality

Also by Annette Gordon-Reed All

  1. Book CoverThe Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family


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