In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Thomas Jefferson

  • Introduction
  • Reference Books
  • Biographies
  • Books and Reading
  • Political Science
  • Race and Gender
  • Science
  • Essay Collections
  • Influence

American Literature Thomas Jefferson
Kevin J. Hayes
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0180


A chronological list of the various positions Thomas Jefferson held over the course of his lengthy public career can serve as a rough outline of his life: member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, delegate to the Continental Congress, member of the Virginia House of Delegates, governor of Virginia, minister to France, US secretary of state, president of the American Philosophical Society, US vice president, US president, and founder and rector of the University of Virginia. All these positions do not touch upon the numerous other roles Jefferson played in his life: architect, author, bookman, farmer, father, grandfather, lawyer, scientist, and traveler. As an author, for example, Jefferson is best known for the Declaration of Independence and Notes on the State of Virginia, but he wrote much else, as well. He is one of the finest and most prolific letter writers in American literature. He wrote an autobiography; a secular life of Jesus of Nazareth; the Manual of Parliamentary Practice; numerous acts of legislation; and many pamphlets, including Observation on the Whale Fishery, Proceedings and Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia, and Summary View of the Rights of British America; and The Anas, a compilation of conversation recorded while he was a member of George Washington’s cabinet. Students interested in nearly any topic about American history, literature, or culture can look to Thomas Jefferson to find an exciting subject for research. The works listed here are designed to provide useful starting points for research in many different fields of study. The list of primary texts provides works written by Jefferson, but they all contain detailed introductions and annotations to help put Jefferson’s writings into their biographical, cultural, and historical contexts. The remainder of this article is devoted to secondary works, that is, writings about Thomas Jefferson. Discussed are reference books, biographies, and volumes devoted to the following major topics: books and reading, critical studies, political science, race and gender, and science. Collections of critical and historical essays are grouped together, as are works that view Jefferson’s enduring influence on the nation and the world.

Primary Texts

The primary bibliography that constitutes this section is subdivided into four parts. One section lists the two separate series of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, the First Series and the Retirement Series. The Second Series of the Papers, which is composed of stand-alone works, gets its own section. Other book-length works that have not been or will not be included in the Papers of Thomas Jefferson are listed in the third section, and the fourth section provides a highly selective list of Jefferson’s letters.

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