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In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  173 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
"A major contribution." Washington Post
The authoritative single-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most significant figure in American history. He was a complex and compelling man: a fervent advocate of democracy who enjoyed the life of a southern aristocrat and owned slaves, a revolutionary who became president, a believer in states' rights who did much to
Paperback, 432 pages
Published May 12th 1988 by Ballantine Books (first published 1987)
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 05, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone Interested in American History
The subtitle of this biography of Thomas Jefferson is "In Pursuit of Reason" and that theme is expanded upon in the quote by Jefferson with which Cunningham chose to head the text: It rests now with ourselves alone to enjoy in peace and concord the blessings of self-government, so long denied to mankind: to show by example the sufficiency of human reason for the care of human affairs and that the will of the majority, the Natural law of every society, is the only sure guardian of the rights of m ...more
WC Beaver
Some historians say that Thomas Jefferson was the greatest of America's founding fathers. Noble E Cunningham makes a splendid effort to support this assertion in this highly detailed account of Jefferson's pursuit of reason.

That Jefferson was a man of firm convictions has been recorded in numerous accounts of his life. What needs to be addressed in addition to his accomplishments, which Cunningham to a large extent has done, is Jefferson's fervor to ensure man's rightful place in life, liberty,
Sep 19, 2015 J.E.Lindberg rated it really liked it
Was inspired to read this after seeing an actor portraying Jefferson as well as suffering all I could bear of modern claimants to his political legacy. There certainly are no modern politicians with a fraction of Jefferson's energy, work ethic and sheer commitment to public service. My only critique of this biography is the omission of many significant historical events and their context in the life and works of Jefferson. A readable biography of a complex person who was very much a product of h ...more
Paul Haspel
Jun 24, 2014 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it
I found this succinct, one-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson to be well-written and effective, though not – if you will pardon the term – revolutionary. The title In Pursuit of Reason demonstrates author Noble Cunningham’s intent to present a relatively traditional portrait of Jefferson as the ultimate rationalist – someone who consistently sought to apply the rule of reason to human affairs, and who built his political ideology of republican democracy upon that basis. Such a portrayal, of co ...more
Andrew Gaulke
Jan 04, 2011 Andrew Gaulke rated it liked it
I found this book to be quite abysmal. The author states he set out to write a more accessible biography of Jefferson for the casual reader but in the end has created something entirely useless for anyone who does not already know just about everything about Jeffersons acheivements. Most of the space that could have been spent talking about his actual accomplishments is instead taken up with commentaries and refutations of the most dismal scholarly minutia. The only mention of his relationship w ...more
Terry Earley
Dec 10, 2010 Terry Earley rated it liked it
This was just what it purported to be, a one volume, accessible biography of Jefferson. Not a scholarly historian, but interested in history, and particularly early 19th century America, I found this book was instructive and, except for minute details of political maneuverings, which got way too specific, very readable.
Loony Gryphon
Jun 11, 2011 Loony Gryphon rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: good reference book for an essay
I forget the reason why I ended up reading this book, but I'm fairly sure it was for a research paper. Whatever the reason, I did read it, and it is a rather good book to use for reference and no where nearly as dry as some history texts I've had the dubious pleasure of reading.
Paul Recanzone
Dec 01, 2010 Paul Recanzone rated it liked it
Thomas Jefferson led a fascinating life - one difficult to capture in a single volume.
Cunningham does a pretty good job of providing the postitive and negative of Jefferson's life (though he is quite dismissive of the Hemings affair).
Becky Behymer layton
Interesting but dry.
This was going to be Book Three in the President Project, but after more than fifty pages, I still wasn't at all engaged. I thoght Jefferson deserved better, so I went off in search of a bio that would suit me.
Aug 02, 2007 Tom rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Historians
Shelves: biography
This is not the most robust of the many available Jefferson biographies but not a bad entry. Casual readers might start here rather than with a more detailed volume.
Bryan Craig
Mar 20, 2009 Bryan Craig rated it really liked it
A straight forward biography, not riveting, but balanced and a good start for a one volume book.
Craig J.
In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson by Noble E. Jr Cunningham (1988)
Margaret Jadin
It was just ok. Very clinical. About his career as a politician.
Dec 26, 2010 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
see A. P. History 1 binder--Thomas Jefferson biography
Oct 29, 2008 Linda added it
Interesting history.
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Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., one of the foremost scholars of the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson, was born in 1926 in Evans Landing, Indiana, he served with the U.S. Army, 1944-1946, and received a B.A. from the University of Louisville in 1948. He earned his M.A. (1949) and Ph.D., with honors, from Duke University (1952). He taught at Wake Forest College and the University of Richmond before jo ...more
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