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Summer Jefferson Symposium

Peter Onuf's Welcome Reception: Jefferson's Love of the Written Word


Peter S. Onuf, Harmsworth Professor of American History at University of Oxford in 2008-2009, is Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. A specialist in the history of the early American republic, Onuf was educated at Johns Hopkins University, where he received his A.B. in 1967 and Ph.D. in 1973, and has taught at Columbia University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Southern Methodist University before coming to Virginia in 1990.

His recent work on Thomas Jefferson’s political thought, culminating in Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood (University Press of Virginia, 2000) and The Mind of Thomas Jefferson (2007, also Virginia), grows out of earlier studies on the history of American federalism, foreign policy, and political economy. With his brother, political theorist Nicholas G. Onuf, Onuf published Nations, Markets, and War: Modern History and the American Civil War (2006), the sequel to their collaboration, Federal Union, Modern World (Madison House, 1990), a history of international law and order in the Atlantic states’ system during the Age of Revolutions and early nineteenth century.

Onuf is also one of the authors, with Edward L. Ayers, of All Over the Map: Rethinking Region and Nation in the United States (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), the editor of Jeffersonian Legacies (1993), co-editor of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture (1999) and The Revolution of 1800: Democracy, Race, and the New Republic (2002), all published by Virginia, and co-author (with Leonard Sadosky) of Jeffersonian America (Basil Blackwell’s, 2001). He previewed his current research on “Thomas Jefferson and the Origins of American Democracy” in his Hamsworth Inaugural Lecture in November.

With Ed Ayers, President of University if Richmond, and his Virginia colleague Brian Balogh, Onuf is one of the co-hosts of the new radio program “Backstory with the American History Guys.” For more information see the program website:


Peter Onuf
Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History,
University of Virginia


"I cannot live without books."
- Thomas Jefferson