Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty

John B. Boles. Basic, $35 (640p) ISBN 978-0-465-09468-4
In a narrative as majestic as its subject, Boles (University Builder), professor of history at Rice University, takes a fresh, nuanced look at one of the America’s most enigmatic founding fathers. With scads of books already available about Jefferson, Boles’s work distinguishes itself in two ways. First, it’s a “full-scale” biography, covering all facets of Jefferson’s life: politician, oenophile, father. The prose moves smoothly and efficiently among the various parts of Jefferson’s life, lingering only long enough to get each particular story told. Boles judiciously selects events that highlight his subject’s personality. For instance, when Jefferson stepped down as governor of Virginia in 1781, the state assembly launched an inquiry into how effectively he’d served in office. The charge cut him so deeply that he turned down the chance to negotiate the Paris Peace Treaty so he could defend himself. Second, Boles declined to apply 21st-century sensibilities to Jefferson’s life: “Instead, we should try to understand the constraints—legal, financial, personal, intellectual—under which he lived.” Boles, an accomplished scholar well versed in the source material, deftly paints a picture of the world as Jefferson knew it, taking care not to mix up understanding with excusing, especially with the Virginian’s relationship with Sally Hemings. This is a gem of a biography. Illus. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/13/2017
Release date: 04/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4789-7660-8
Open Ebook - 640 pages - 978-0-465-09469-1
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