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In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson Paperback – May 12, 1988


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (May 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345353803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345353801
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,224,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The life of Thomas Jefferson, demonstrably the most intellectual of America's presidents, has fascinated scholars for generations. A careful but elusive autobiographer, Jefferson left behind such a wealth of information about himself and his times that he has fueled hundreds of studies. Noble Cunningham's one-volume life is somewhat dispassionate, giving only a little sense of Jefferson's greatness, but it covers the essential episodes in the Founding Father's life with admirable balance and conciseness. Read this along with Joseph Ellis's American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, and you'll have a very good idea of why we continue to find the early statesman fascinating today. --Gregory MacNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Cunningham "succeeds admirably in his biography of Jefferson," reported PW, and "writes well and with evident authority in this rich work," which describes both the details of Jefferson's political career and the evolution of his thinking, as expressed in his writings. Photos.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This isn't the place to find either.
Seano
This book is a good short biography about Thomas Jefferson.
R. T. LYNCH
Yet it is a fairly good book overall.
"naaz_saleem"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By T. B. Vick on April 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book has received unwarranted bad reviews and press simply because it is 'short.' Noble E. Cunningham's purpose, it seems, for this biography of Jefferson, was to present the essential life of Jefferson in such a way that all could enjoy. There have been so many biographies written on Jefferson and most are massive multi- volumes which can come across as very daunting to the average reader.
However, this book, while very well researched and authoritative in its content, is a biography which can be read by the average Joe and the scholar alike. Cunningham's research is very well documented, and the book is put together systematically from "The Formative Years" to "The Final Legacy." So, in a brief space, one can read this volume and learn the essential/perennial events which occurred in Jefferson's life. Moreover, Cunningham delves a little into Jefferson's personal affairs, such as his lost first love - Rebecca Burwell, to his admiration for Patrick Henry. Cunningham also details Jefferson's early intellectual influences and his love for law. In fact, in 349 pages of text, the most crucial and important events which occurred, and have been documented, in Jefferson's life are present in this text.
Therefore, Cunningham's attempt in writing this size biography was not to press his reader down in certain detail. Rather, Cunningham attempted to present a Jefferson which could be widely read by most anyone. His efforts are noble and successful on that level.
However, it must be stated that if you are wanting an intricately more detailed work of Jefferson, then this book will only wet your appetite for more. There are other biographies available (massive multi- volumes) for one to delve much deeper. But here, Cunningham just simply lets his reader know some of the most crucial events and facts. That being the case, this is a good book to begin your research and study of Thomas Jefferson.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Highly condensed version of Jefferson's life, but very readable. Leaves out of the behind the scenes happenings, and intergal family life, especially of grandchildren. Good stater book for someone interested the Jefferson.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
Enjoyed this book, especially the focus given to the changing relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Jefferson over the years. Enjoyed learning about the relationship between Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.
Good background and insight into the forming of the first political parties (Federalists and Republicans) as well as insight into the political tactics and "spin" each party used to advance it's agenda. Many parallels are evident to the political tactics used by the Democratic and Republican parties of today.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "naaz_saleem" on April 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I am only an undergrad student, so I admit I'm not all that well read. A wealth of literature has been published on Jefferson. There are a great many books carry out in-depth studies on various aspects relating to Jefferson. This book, is, however, a brief account of Jefferson's entire life.on that account,it is obviously a limited book. Even so the dicussion on Jefferson;s two terms as president are too brief. Yet Cunningham's approach to various subjects-the Embargo, for example are fairly good. The book includes a section on jefferson's last years (in the chapter "The Sage Of Monticello)which is brief yet intersting. Overall, the book tries to encompass Jefferson's personal as well as political life in its contents.Thus it compromises with many aspects.Yet it is a fairly good book overall.It is written in lucid style and would be useful to anyone wanting to obtain a bird's eye view of the life and career of Thomas Jefferson.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Summers on August 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've been reading biographies of the presidents in the order they served, and I have to agree with Andrew Wagner's review: I don't really feel like I know Jefferson after reading this biography. Unlike McCullough's "John Adams" or Ketcham's "James Madison: A Biography," this book deals predominantly (just shy of exclusively) with Jefferson's public life. The author seems to begrudgingly deal with Jefferson's personal life only because some exposition of it is expected at certain points (e.g., formative years, Sally Hemings). He barely mentions Jefferson's friendships with Adams, Madison, and others. You'll know more about Jefferson's personal life from reading McCullough's book on Adams than reading this biography. That said, if you're, in fact, looking for a good synopsis of Jefferson's public life only, this book does a good job.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. Otis on January 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this book Noble Cunningham has managed to make one of the most fascinating figures in American history pedestrian. He provides a dutiful recounting of the facts of Jefferson's life, but never makes him come alive. His thesis--that Jefferson saw the use of reason as the highest human undertaking--is certainly valid, but Jefferson was a man of enormous contradictions, none of which are truly explored here. This book makes the man who said "Democracy ought to be periodically washed in blood" seem like a hardworking civil servant.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "naaz_saleem" on April 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
There is no dearth of literature on Thomas Jefferson.there are numerous books that offer detailed studies on various aspects of his life, political theory and his career. This book is obviously a brief account of the life and career of Thomas Jefferson. As such, it compromises on a detailed discussion on any one aspect of Jefferson's life, but this is understandable, given the limited scope of the book. Even so the discussion on Jefferson's presidency is a little too brief. However certain topics-such as the Emabargo, are handled fairly well. overall, this book is usefull to anyone who wishes to obtain a bird's eye view of Jefferson's life.
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