“Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation” by Merrill Peterson was published in 1970 and is considered by many to be the best, and most complete, single-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson. Peterson, who died in 2009 at the age of 88, was a prolific author, having written about Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, among others. He was also a professor of history, teaching at Brandeis and Princeton before moving to the University of Virginia in 1962 to succeed Dumas Malone, another legendary Jefferson scholar.
Peterson’s “Thomas Jefferson” was my fifth and final biography of Jefferson – counting Malone’s six volume series only once. Having now lived and re-lived Jefferson’s life from the perspective of many authors, I was eager to experience this weighty, thousand-page classic. In most ways I was not disappointed, though there were a few bumps along the way.
From an academic perspective, Peterson’s biography serves as a thorough and detailed reference on Jefferson, comprehensively chronicling nearly all of his legislative, diplomatic and political activities. Had I not recently read Dumas Malone’s even more comprehensive series on Jefferson, I would have thought…
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