Tag Archives: Biography / Autobiography

Thomas Jefferson: A Brief Biography

In this small jewel of a biography, readers will become acquainted with the mind and temperament of Thomas Jefferson as written by the greatest of Jefferson scholars. Dumas Malone, author of the unrivaled six-volume biography, Jefferson and His Time, brought fifty years of research and scholarship to the writing of this essay. It is a life story told with great respect and without hero worship.

My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver (Environmental History and the American South)

George Washington Carver (ca. 1864–1943) is at once one of the most familiar and misunderstood figures in American history. In My Work Is That of Conservation, Mark D. Hersey reveals the life and work of this fascinating man who is widely—and reductively—known as the African American scientist who developed a wide variety of uses for the peanut.

Carver had a truly prolific career dedicated to studying the ways in which people ought to interact with the natural world, yet much of his work has been largely forgotten. Hersey rectifies this by tracing the evolution of Carver’s agricultural and environmental thought starting with his childhood in Missouri and Kansas and his education at the Iowa Agricultural College. Carver’s environmental vision came into focus when he moved to the Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Alabama, where his sensibilities and training collided with the denuded agrosystems, deep poverty, and institutional racism of the Black Belt. It was there that Carver realized his most profound agricultural thinking, as his efforts to improve the lot of the area’s poorest farmers forced him to adjust his conception of scientific agriculture.
Continue reading

George Washington: A Biography (Southern Biography)

In George Washington, John R. Alden traces the interwoven histories of Washington and the nation he helped to create, defend, and guide toward the future. Alden recreates the major events of Washington's personal and professional life, including his boyhood in rural Virginia, his early careers as a surveyor and then a soldier in the French and Indian War, and his staid but enduring marriage. The core of the biography is devoted to Washington's leadership roles-his assumption of the post of commander in chief of the Continental Army, his part in the Constitutional Convention, and his presidency. As Alden reveals, Washington's greatness lay in his total devotion to the cause of the American nation and in his wisdom as a leader. "This is the best single-volume biography of Washington ever written. . . . [Alden] is judicious in his judgments, balanced in his presentation, and always interesting in his portrayal."-Library Journal (starred review) "Alden has drawn on his extensive knowledge of the era to produce a straightforward, anecdotal, often lively account of Washington and his times."-New York Times Book Review

Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War

When Thomas Jefferson wrote his epitaph, he listed as his accomplishments his authorship of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia statute of religious freedom, and his founding of the University of Virginia. He did not mention his presidency or that he was second governor of the state of Virginia, in the most trying hours of the Revolution. Dumas Malone, author of the epic six-volume biography, wrote that the events of this time explain Jefferson's "character as a man of action in a serious emergency." Joseph Ellis, author of American Sphinx, focuses on other parts of Jefferson's life but wrote that his actions as governor "toughened him on the inside." It is this period, when Jefferson was literally tested under fire, that Michael Kranish illuminates in Flight from Monticello.

Filled with vivid, precisely observed scenes, this book is a sweeping narrative of clashing armies–of spies, intrigue, desperate moments, and harrowing battles. The story opens with the first murmurs of resistance to Britain, as the colonies struggled under an onerous tax burden and colonial leaders–including Jefferson–fomented opposition to British rule. Kranish captures the tumultuous outbreak of war, the local politics behind Jefferson's actions in the Continental Congress (and his famous Declaration), and his rise to the governorship. Jefferson's life-long belief in the corrupting influence of a powerful executive led him to advocate for a weak governorship, one that lacked the necessary powers to raise an army. Thus, Virginia was woefully unprepared for the invading British troops who sailed up the James under the direction of a recently turned Benedict Arnold. Facing rag-tag resistance, the British force took the colony with very little trouble. The legislature fled the capital, and Jefferson himself narrowly eluded capture twice.
Continue reading

The Religious Life of Thomas Jefferson

In this new study we have a comprehensive account of Jefferson's religious thought, one that provides information about his beliefs and practices that will help remove any misconceptions about his religious life.

Jefferson has long been recognized as a creative thinker ahead of his time. As this book makes clear, he was deeply interested in religious questions that the passing years have made more important. Beyond such obvious issues as war and peace, social justice, and racism, he confronted religious and theological problems that have increasingly concerned later religious thinkers.

Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation

A dramatic portrait of George Washington's presidential years, Patriarch is a gripping story of politics and statecraft. Smith describes Washington's struggle to preside over the bitter feud between Jefferson and Hamilton–two brilliant members of his cabinet–while attempting to distinguish the first presidency.

An Evening with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson: Dinner, Wine, and Conversation

Through a dream sequence, you (the reader) go back in time to 18th century Paris where you meet Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. In the comfort of Jefferson's residence on the Champs-Elysees, you sit down with these two great Americans, and in response to your questions, they tell in their own words the most interesting stories of their lives. There are extensive citations of authority to support all of their comments.

Jefferson the Virginian (Jefferson & His Time (University of Virginia Press))

Dumas Malone’s classic six-volume biography Jefferson and His Time was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history and became the standard work on Jefferson’s life.
Volume 1. Jefferson the VirginianThis first volume explores the early phases of Jefferson’s life, from his youth, education, legal career, and marriage, to the building of Monticello, writing of the Declaration of Independence and his highly contentious governorship.

Thomas Jefferson: Draftsman of a Nation

Thomas Jefferson’s was one of history’s greatest voices for the importance of individual freedom. His eloquence on this fundamental right became the cornerstone of our nation and a central theme of the Enlightenment. And yet, Jefferson presided over a society that depended on slavery and was himself the holder of numerous slaves. How are students of history to reconcile this contradiction in the third president? Now celebrated biographer and historian Natalie Bober presents a life of Jefferson that does not evade this difficult question. Bober explores the slave community that built and maintained his home, Monticello–and what their lives under Jefferson tell us about him and about slavery as an early American institution.

To assess fully what Jefferson might mean to our time, we must first understand what it meant to be a man of his own time. From the first page, the world he inhabited is made vivid–and so, too, is Jefferson himself, standing before us as a freckled and, for the eighteenth century, unusually tall young man. Bober follows him through a life in which the presidency was just one of many accomplishment. As designer of Monticello, he was one of the great architects of his era; as founder of the University of Virginia, he was one of the nation’s early champions of higher education. His greatest legacy is perhaps as author of the Declaration of Independence, a nearly unrivaled instance of words giving tangible meaning to life. The Jefferson revealed here is distinguished by his often contradictory nature but also by his optimism, his curiosity, his exceptional sense of history (including the history still to be made).
Continue reading

George Washington On Leadership

In 1799, at the end of George Washington’s long life and illustrious career, the politician Henry Lee eulogized him as: First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Esteemed historian Richard Brookhiser now adds to this list, First in leadership,” examining the lessons to be learned from our first president, first commander-in-chief, and founding CEO.

With wit and skill, Brookhiser expertly anatomizes true leadership with lessons from Washington’s three spectacularly successful careers as an executive: general, president, and tycoon. In every area of endeavor, Washington maximized his strengths and overcame his flaws. Brookhiser shows how one man’s struggles and successes two centuries ago can serve as a modeland an inspirationfor leaders today.