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Understanding Thomas Jefferson

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  133 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
Recent biographies of Thomas Jefferson have stressed the sphinxlike puzzles of his character—famous champion of freedom yet lifelong slaveholder, foe of miscegenation yet secret lover of a beautiful slave for 30 years, aristocrat yet fervent advocate of government by the people. E. M. Halliday's absorbing and lucid portrait recognizes these and other puzzles about this gre ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2001)
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While I enjoyed the philosophical discussion over whether or not Jefferson was as forward-thinking as historians have portrayed him, I found this book to be a little annoying. The final chapter talked about the value of historical fiction - in particular, how Jefferson has been portrayed in that genre - and the use of artistic license to fill in the unknown details. But the entire first half of Halliday's book itself is filled with conjecture, mainly over Jefferson's amorous forays, on which the ...more
Oct 23, 2010 Stacee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspired to buy and read this after visiting Montecello. I love that this book delves into his personal life and travels outside of his Presidency. Appropriate since public life, for him, seemed to be contrary to real life and how he preferred to live. Great book.
Jun 13, 2009 Harry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unconventional biography of Jefferson that uses particular stories and writings to illuminate Jefferson's character. It skips a lot of the Virginian's biography in favor of trying to get inside Jefferson's mind. A very different kind of biography, and very opinionated -- Halliday uses a lot of conjecture about what Jefferson could have been thinking when he did certain things, and lingers a lot on Jefferson's sexuality and relationship with Sally Hemmings. If you're looking for an exhaustive ...more
Amanda J
A quick-paced biography of Thomas Jefferson. Easy to read, which makes it enjoyable. Critics argue that this book focuses too much on pyschosexual analysis, and while the author does explore Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemmings to a greater degree than he examines other areas of his life, I still think this is a good introduction into Jefferson's life.
I really liked this one. I'm really interested in Thomas Jefferson and the author made things really easy to understand and made you felt like you were right there at his side watching his life unfold.
Jun 12, 2009 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book did help me understand Thomas Jefferson better, but I was hoping for more information about his interest in horticulture. The information discussed, however, will help me in my quest to learn more about American history.
David Ziff
Jan 27, 2013 David Ziff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a detailled political history but rather an attempt to look at the paradoxes that the man presents. More of a book written around ideas than the fact driven history that I learned in the 50's and 60's in school.
Ed Smiley
The point of this book was to hypothesize a three dimensional and plausible Jefferson. As a result, much of the book is speculative, but the basis for what it deems the most probable assertion is pretty clearly spelled out.
Jan 28, 2016 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
Can't say that it did much for my understanding. The author seemed to dwell a great deal on past biographies, and where they strayed, even going into recent novels and movies. Not particularly satisfying to me. Jefferson still remains interesting, but am discouraged by such books.
Jan 28, 2009 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Halliday argued that Thomas Jefferson is not really an enigma, as other historians have suggested. This book is an essential addition to the library of anyone seriously interested in this monumental figure in American history.
Jan 28, 2008 Larry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had good information about Jefferson's plantation life, and personal relationships. Thought Halliday made some leaps in logic, proclaiming Jefferson "must have" thought, did things that he sort of reports as fact but they aren't facts.
m. soria
Aug 03, 2008 m. soria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
oh yeah, TJ is my homeboy!
Arbaz Khan
Upon finishing this book, Halliday's through line within the novel is human nature's clash between, as Jefferson put it best a, "dialogue between my head and my heart,".
A bit too much conjecture for me, and quite the emphasis on his libido...
April Sandmeyer
Nov 29, 2010 April Sandmeyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed working for E.M. Halliday, loved him dearly, miss him so much, and will never forget him!~April Sandmeyer
Makes me understand Jefferson, understand he was a racist, extremist that would probably live in Montana today. In a bunker. With 5 wives.
Michelle Jesky
Jul 13, 2009 Michelle Jesky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked learning more about Thomas Jefferson. He was a complex guy!
Michael Dunn
Jun 16, 2016 Michael Dunn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well done. A quick read and very helpful for a deeper and fuller perspective on Jefferson. Especially important is a chapter entitled "Slave Master - and Racist." Really worth the time to read.
Sean Chick
A strangely shallow and disorganized book. It seems more interested in Jefferson's love life than anything else. The result is curiosity hemmed in by limp prose. The insights contained are scattered.
Jul 11, 2009 Tessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting perspective on a complicated, fascinating and hypocritical (in my opinion) man. The author did seem a bit hung up on the sexual side of Jefferson though.
Jun 12, 2008 Ed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who appreciate life, liberty and/or the pursuit of happiness
Not a biography, not an attempt at a balanced portrait...but interesting nonetheless in exploring the fascinating character of one of America's true geniuses.
John Romaniello
John Romaniello rated it liked it
Mar 14, 2009
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Meaghan Helms rated it it was ok
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